Devika Chithrani

Devika Chithrani
Associate Professor
University of Victoria

PhD (University of Toronto, Canada) MSc (University of Toronto, Canada) BSc (Hons; University of Colombo, Sri Lanka) NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow (University of Toronto, Canada)

Office: Elliott 107, University of Victoria

Overview of research

Cancer nanotechnology & medical physics

Nuclear Targeting of Gold Nanoparticles for Improved Therapeutics

Research projects

Nanotechnology involves creation and utilization of materials, devices or systems on the nanometer scale. The field of nanotechnology is currently undergoing explosive development on many fronts. Among other fields, nanotechnology is expected to generate innovations and play a critical role in the field of cancer nanomedicine.

My research program also involves the use of gold nanostructures as a versatile platform for integration of many therapeutic options towards optimizing combinational therapy platform in the battle against cancer. For example, radiation therapy and chemotherapy remain as the most widely used treatment options. Our studies show that the incorporation of gold nanostructures into those protocols have enhanced tumor cell damage. However, nanoparticle based platforms are still at the initial stage of development and much more research is required before they can be applied in clinical applications.

Therefore, this emerging field of nanomedicine requires better understanding of the interface between nanotechnology and medicine in order make use of their full potential in the clinic. My research program is designed to improve the understanding of the bio-nano interface. Better knowledge of the nano-bio interface would lead to better tools for diagnostic imaging and therapy. As a step forward in this direction, we have shown how the size, shape, and surface properties of nanoparticles (NPs) affect their intracellular fate both in vitro and in vivo. We also engineer three dimensional tissue-like models to test our nanoparticle systems before using then in animal models. These fundamental studies will facilitate building of better NP-based platforms for improved results in the future cancer care of patients.



2020-2021 Academic year:

PHYS 120 (Physics I; Fall) & PHYS280

PHYS120 is an introductory physics course.

PHYS280 course delivers materials related to special topics in biomedical sciences. In other words, we will learn to use the physics we learned in the first year to understand their applications in biomedical sciences. This includes biomedical imaging, therapy, and diagnostics. We will also tour the British Columbia Cancer Agency to witness how some of the things you lean in the course is used in day today.

Graduate students

  • Kyle Bromma (PhD); NSERC doctoral fellow (CGS D)
  • Abdulaziz Alhussan (PhD); UVic fellowship
  • Ece Pinar Demirci (MSc); Full scholarship


  • Kristy Rieck (MSc); Funded by  NSERC and UVic fellowship
  • Aaron Bannister (MSc); UVic fellowship & UVic fellowship
  • Celina Yang (PhD); Funded by NSERC and OGST
  • Celina Yang (MSc); Funded by NSERC
  • Darren Yohan (MSc); Funded by NSERC
  • Charmainne Cruje (MSc); Funded by NSERC
  • Mehrnoosh Neshatian (MSc); Funded by NSERC

Undergraduate students

  • Leah Cicon (NSERC USRA summer student; 4th year thesis student, JCURA recipient)
  • Antonia Kowalewski (Summer student)
  • Dushanthi Dissanayake (Summer Student)
  • Sarah Eaton (NSERC USRA summer student; 4th year thesis student, JCURA recipient)
  • Kyle Bromma (NSERC USRA summer student; 4th year thesis student, JCURA recipient)
  • Ashley Singh (Honors thesis)
  • Rawan Ibrahem (Honors thesis)
  • Qingmiao Ran (Honors thesis)
  • Natasha Hegarty (Honors thesis)

Selected publications

  • Bromma K, Cicon L, Beckham W, Chithrani D. Gold nanoparticle mediated radiation response among key cell components of the tumour microenvironment for the advancement of cancer nanotechnology. Sci Rep 10, 12096 (2020).
  • Bromma K, Chithrani BD. Optimizing radiation effects of tumor targeted metal nanoparticles, Invited article under a collection titled “Roadmap for metal nanoparticles in radiation therapy: current status, translational challenges, and future directions”, Physics in Medicine & Biology, Accepted for publication (2020).
  • Bannister, A., Dissanayake D, Kowalewski A, Cicon L, Bromma K, Chithrani BD. Modulation of the Microtubule Network for Optimization of Nanoparticle Dynamics for the Advancement of Cancer Nanomedicine. Bioengineering, 7, 56 (2020).
  • Bannister A, Bromma K, Sung W, Mesa M, Cicon L, Howard P, Chow B, Schuemann J, Chithrani BD. Modulation of nanoparticle uptake, intracellular distribution, and retention with docetaxel to enhance radiotherapy, British Journal of Radiology, 92, 20190742 (2019).
  • Rieck K, Bromma K, Sung W, Bannister A, Schuemann J, Chithrani BD. Modulation of gold nanoparticle mediated radiation dose enhancement through synchronization of breast tumor cell population, British Journal of Radiology, 92, 1100 (2019).
  • Bromma K, Rieck K, Kulkarni J, O’Sullivan C, Sung W, Cullis P, Schuemann J, Chithrani BD. Use of a lipid nanoparticle system as a Trojan horse in delivery of gold nanoparticles to human breast cancer cells for improved outcomes in radiation therapy, Cancer Nanotechnology (Springer Nature), 10, 1 (2019).
  • Chithrani BD. Crossing barriers towards improving cancer nanomedicine. Frontiers in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, 4, 1 (2018).
  • Yang C, Bromma K, Sung W, Schuemann J, B.D. Chithrani. Determining the radiation enhancement effects of gold nanoparticles in cells in a combined treatment with cisplatin and radiation at therapeutic megavoltage energies, Cancers. 10, 150 (2018).
  • Yang C, Bromma K, and Chithrani BD. Petide mediated in vivo tumor targeting of gold nanoparticles through optimization at single and multilayer in vitro cell models, Cancers, 10, 84 (2018).
  • Cruje C, Yang C, Uertz J, van Prooijen M, Chithrani BD. Optimization of PEG coated nanoscale gold particles for enhanced radiation therapy, RSC Advances, 3, 01525 (2016).
  • Yang C, Chithrani BD. Nuclear targeting of gold nanoparticles for improved therapeutics. Currrent Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, 16, 271 (2016).
  • Yang C, Uertz J, Chithrani BD. Colloidal Gold-Mediated Delivery of Bleomycin for Improved Outcome in Chemotherapy. Nanomaterials. 6, 1 (2016).
  • Schuemann J, Berbeco R, Chithrani BD, Cho S, Kumar R, McMahon S, Sridhar S, Krishnan S. Roadmap to clinical use of gold nanoparticles for radiosensitization. J. Radiation Oncology, Biology & Physics, 94, 189 (2016).
  • Yohan D, Cruje C, Chithrani BD. Elucidating the Uptake and Distribution of Nanoparticles in Solid Tumors via a Multilayered Cell Culture Model, Journal of Micro-Nano Letters, 7, 127 (2015). Featured on the cover.
  • Yohan D, Cruje C, Lu X, Chithrani BD. Size Dependent Gold Nanoparticle interaction at NanoMicro Interface using both Monolayer and Multilayer (tissue-like) Cell Models. Nano-Micro letters, 8, 44 (2015). Featured on the cover.
  • Neshatian M, Chung S, Yohan D, Yang C, Chithrani BD. Uptake of Gold Nanoparticles in Breathless (hypoxic) Cancer Cells, Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 11,1162-1172 (2015).
  • Yang C, Uertz J, Yohan Y, Chithrani BD. Peptide Modified Gold Nanoparticles for Improved Cellular Uptake, Nuclear Transport, and Intracellular Retention, Nanoscale, 6, 12026 (2014).
  • Yohan D, Chithrani BD. Applications of Nanoparticles in Nanomedicine, Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 10, 2371-2392 (2014).
  • Chithrani BD, Jelveh S, Hill RP, Bristow RG, Jaffray DA. Gold Nanoparticles as a Radiation Sensitizer in Cancer Therapy, Radiation Research, 173, 719 (2010). Featured on the cover & Michael S Patterson publication award in 2018 due to the highest impact it made in medical physics.
  • Chithrani BD, Chan WCW. Elucidating the Mechanism of Cellular Uptake and Removal of Protein–coated Gold Nanoparticles of Different Sizes and Shapes, Nano Letters, 7, 1542 (2007).
  • Chithrani BD, Ghazani A, Chan WCW. Determining the Size and Shape Dependence of Nanoparticle – Uptake into Mammalian Cells, Nano Letters, 6, 662 (2006).
Book chapters
  • Chithrani BD.  Intracellular targeting using surface-modified gold nanoparticles, in: Biomedical Applications of Functionalized Nanomaterials (B. Sarmento and J. das Neves, ed.). pp. 315-333, Elsevier Press, Atlanta (Chapter (#11) in a research text) (2018).
  • Cruje C, Yohan D,  Yang C,  Neshatian M,  Chithrani BD. Intracellular behavior of nanoparticles based on their physico-chemical properties, in: Handbook of Research on Diverse Applications of Nanotechnology in Biomedicine, Chemistry, and Engineering (S. Soni, A. Salhotra, and M. Suar ed.), pp. 10-35, IGI publishing, Pennsylvania. (Chapter (#2) in a research text) (2014).
  • Chithrani BD. Gold Nanoparticle-mediated Radiosensitization, in: Cancer Nanotechnology: Principles and Applications in Radiation Oncology (S. Krishnan and S.H. Cho, ed.), pp. 111-121, CRC press, Florida (Chapter (#9) in a research text) (2013).
  • Neshatian M, Yang C,  Hegarty N, Chithrani BD. Optimizing the Bio-Nano Interface for Gold Nanoparticle, in: Precious metals for Biomedical Applications (N. Baltzer and T. Copponnex, ed.), pp. 87-106, Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge (Chapter (#4) in a research text) (2014).
  • Chithrani BD, Chan WCW. Nanoparticles in Biomedical Photonics, in: Encyclopaedia of Biomedical Engineering (M. Akay, ed.), John Wiley & sons, New Jersey. (Chapter in a research text) (2006).


  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC)
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
  • British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF)
  • University of Victoria (UVic)