Molecular pharmaceutics

Nuclear Localizing Peptide-Conjugated, Redox-Sensitive Polymersomes for Delivering Curcumin and Doxorubicin to Pancreatic Cancer Microtumors.

PMID 28493710


Improving the therapeutic index of anticancer agents is an enormous challenge. Targeting decreases the side effects of the therapeutic agents by delivering the drugs to the intended destination. Nanocarriers containing the nuclear localizing peptide sequences (NLS) translocate to the cell nuclei. However, the nuclear localization peptides are nonselective and cannot distinguish the malignant cells from the healthy counterparts. In this study, we designed a "masked" NLS peptide which is activated only in the presence of overexpressed matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7) enzyme in the pancreatic cancer microenvironment. This peptide is conjugated to the surface of redox responsive polymersomes to deliver doxorubicin and curcumin to the pancreatic cancer cell nucleus. We have tested the formulation in both two- and three-dimensional cultures of pancreatic cancer and normal cells. Our studies revealed that the drug-encapsulated polymeric vesicles are significantly more toxic toward the cancer cells (shrinking the spheroids up to 49%) compared to the normal cells (shrinking the spheroids up to 24%). This study can lead to the development of other organelle targeted drug delivery systems for various human malignancies.