Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

British Journal of Cancer 114: 435-443;

advance online publication, February 4, 2016;



Non-thermal atmospheric plasma (NTAP) is an ionised gas produced under high voltage that can generate short-lived chemically active species and induce a cytotoxic insult in cancer cells. Cell-specific resistance to NTAP-mediated cytotoxicity has been reported in the literature. The aim of this study was to determine whether resistance against NTAP could be overcome using the human glioma cell line U373MG.


Non-thermal atmospheric plasma was generated using a Dielectric Barrier Device (DBD) system with a maximum voltage output of 120 kV at 50 Hz. The viability of U373MG GBM cells and HeLa cervical carcinoma cells was determined using morphology, flow cytometry and cytotoxicity assays. Fluorescent probes and inhibitors were used to determine the mechanisms of cytotoxicity of cells exposed to the plasma field. Combinational therapy with temozolomide (TMZ) and multi-dose treatments were explored as mechanisms to overcome resistance to NTAP.


Non-thermal atmospheric plasma decreased cell viability in a dose (time)-dependent manner. U373MG cells were shown to be resistant to NTAP treatment when compared with HeLa cells, and the levels of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) quantified in U373MG cells were much lower than in HeLa cells following exposure to the plasma field. Reactive oxygen species inhibitor N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) only alleviated the cytotoxic effects in HeLa cells and not in the relatively NTAP-resistant cell line U373MG. Longer exposures to NTAP induced a cell death independent of ROS, JNK and caspases in U373MG. The relative resistance of U373MG cells to NTAP could be overcome when used in combination with low concentrations of the GBM chemotherapy TMZ or exposure to multiple doses.


For the very first time, we report that NTAP induces an ROS-, JNK- and caspase-independent mechanism of cell death in the U373MG GBM cell line that can be greatly enhanced when used in combination with low doses of TMZ. Further refinement of the technology may facilitate localised activation of cytotoxicity against GBM when used in combination with new and existing chemotherapeutic regimens.



Irish Research Council