Non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma (NTAPP) is an ionized gas at room temperature and has potential as a new apoptosis-promoting cancer therapy that acts by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, it is imperative to determine its selectivity and standardize the components and composition of NTAPP. Here, we designed an NTAPP-generating apparatus combined with a He gas feeding system and demonstrated its high selectivity toward p53-mutated cancer cells. We first determined the proper conditions for NTAPP exposure to selectively induce apoptosis in cancer cells. The apoptotic effect of NTAPP was greater for p53-mutated cancer cells; artificial p53 expression in p53-negative HT29 cells decreased the pro-apoptotic effect of NTAPP. We also examined extra- and intracellular ROS levels in NTAPP-treated cells to deduce the mechanism of NTAPP action. While NTAPP-mediated increases in extracellular nitric oxide (NO) did not affect cell viability, intracellular ROS increased under NTAPP exposure and induced apoptotic cell death. This effect was dose-dependently reduced following treatment with ROS scavengers. NTAPP induced apoptosis even in doxorubicin-resistant cancer cell lines, demonstrating the feasibility of NTAPP as a potent cancer therapy. Collectively, these results strongly support the potential of NTAPP as a selective anticancer treatment, especially for p53-mutated cancer cells.
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