AbstractMetastatic prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in men and current chemotherapies are largely inadequate in terms of efficacy and toxicity. Hence improved treatments are required. The application of siRNA as a cancer therapeutic holds great promise. However, translation of siRNA into the clinic is dependent on the availability of an effective delivery system. Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are known to be effective and non-toxic siRNA delivery agents. In this study, a stable gold nanosphere coated with poly(ethylenimine) (PEI) was prepared to yield PEI capped AuNPs (Au-PEI). The PEI was further conjugated with the targeting ligand anisamide (AA, is known to bind to the sigma receptor overexpressed on the surface of prostate cancer cells) to produce an anisamide-targeted nanoparticle (Au-PEI-AA). The resulting untargeted and targeted nanoparticles (Au-PEI and Au-PEI-AA respectively) were positively charged and efficiently complexed siRNA. Au-PEI-AA mediated siRNA uptake into PC3 prostate cancer cells via binding to the sigma receptor. In addition, the Au-PEI-AA·siRNA complexes resulted in highly efficient knockdown of the RelA gene (∼70%) when cells were transfected in serum-free medium. In contrast, no knockdown was observed in the presence of serum, suggesting that adsorption of serum proteins inhibits the binding of the anisamide moiety to the sigma receptor. This study provides (for the first time) proof of principle that anisamide-labelled gold nanoparticles can target the sigma receptor. Further optimisation of the formulation to increase serum stability will enhance its potential to treat prostate cancer.