Poly(2-oxazoline)s represent an emerging class of polymers with increasing potential in biomedical sciences. To date, most of the work on poly(2-oxazoline)-drug conjugates focused on poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline) (PEtOx), a biocompatible water-soluble polymer with biological properties similar to polyethylene glycol. However, the more hydrophilic poly(2-methyl-2-oxazoline) (PMeOx) shows better anti-fouling properties than PEtOx and thus indicates greater potential for the construction of polymer therapeutics. Herein, we synthesized for the first time a drug delivery system based on a linear PMeOx with a molar mass that is high enough (40 kDa) to exploit passive accumulation in the tumor by the enhanced permeation and retention effect. The anti-cancer drug doxorubicin is attached to the polymer carrier via an acid-sensitive hydrazone bond, which allows its pH-triggered release in the tumor. The in vitro study demonstrates successful cellular uptake of the PMeOx-doxorubicin conjugate via clathrin-mediated endocytosis, pH-sensitive drug release and high cytotoxicity against B16 melanoma cells. Finally, these properties were critically compared to the analogous systems based on the established PEtOx revealing that the more hydrophilic PMeOx carrier outperforms PEtOx in most of the parameters, showing higher maximal drug loading, superior cellular uptake, better anti-fouling properties, as well as improved in vitro anti-cancer efficiency. The study demonstrates the potential of PMeOx as a versatile platform for synthesis of new drug delivery systems.
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