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Chemotherapeutic agents with low toxicity to normal tissues are a major goal in cancer research. In this regard, the therapeutic activities of cationic dyes, such as rhodamine 6G, toward cancer cells have been studied for decades with observed toxicities toward normal and cancer cells. Herein, we report rhodamine 6G-based organic salts with varying counteranions that are stable under physiological conditions, display excellent fluorescence photostability, and more importantly have tunable chemotherapeutic properties. Our in vitro studies indicate that the hydrophobic compounds of this series allow production of nanoparticles which are nontoxic to normal cells and toxic to cancer cells. Furthermore, the anions, in combination with cations such as sodium, were observed to be nontoxic to both normal and cancer cells. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that both the cation and anion play an extremely important and cooperative role in the antitumor properties of these compounds. © 2013 American Chemical Society.

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Journal of the American Chemical Society

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