Author(s): Xiao Y, Hong H, Javadi A, Engle JW, Xu W, Yang Y, Zhang Y, Barnhart TE, Cai W, Gong S. Multifunctional unimolecular micelles for cancer-targeted drug delivery and positron emission tomography imaging. Biomaterials. 2012 Apr;33(11):3071-82. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.12.030. Epub 2012 Jan 26. PMID 22281424
A multifunctional unimolecular micelle made of a hyperbranched amphiphilic block copolymer was designed, synthesized, and characterized for cancer-targeted drug delivery and non-invasive positron emission tomography (PET) imaging in tumor-bearing mice. The hyperbranched amphiphilic block copolymer, Boltorn(®) H40-poly(L-glutamate-hydrazone-doxorubicin)-b-poly(ethylene glycol) (i.e., H40-P(LG-Hyd-DOX)-b-PEG), was conjugated with cyclo(Arg-Gly-Asp-D-Phe-Cys) peptides (cRGD, for integrin α(v)β(3) targeting) and macrocyclic chelators (1,4,7-triazacyclononane-N, N’, N”-triacetic acid [NOTA], for (64)Cu-labeling and PET imaging) (i.e., H40-P(LG-Hyd-DOX)-b-PEG-OCH(3)/cRGD/NOTA, also referred to as H40-DOX-cRGD). The anti-cancer drug, doxorubicin (DOX) was covalently conjugated onto the hydrophobic segments of the amphiphilic block copolymer arms (i.e., PLG) via a pH-labile hydrazone linkage to enable pH-controlled drug release. The unimolecular micelles exhibited a uniform size distribution and pH-sensitive drug release behavior. cRGD-conjugated unimolecular micelles (i.e., H40-DOX-cRGD) exhibited a much higher cellular uptake in U87MG human glioblastoma cells due to integrin α(v)β(3)-mediated endocytosis than non-targeted unimolecular micelles (i.e., H40-DOX), thereby leading to a significantly higher cytotoxicity. In U87MG tumor-bearing mice, H40-DOX-cRGD-(64)Cu also exhibited a much higher level of tumor accumulation than H40-DOX-(64)Cu, measured by non-invasive PET imaging and confirmed by biodistribution studies and ex vivo fluorescence imaging. We believe that unimolecular micelles formed by hyperbranched amphiphilic block copolymers that synergistically integrate passive and active tumor-targeting abilities with pH-controlled drug release and PET imaging capabilities provide the basis for future cancer theranostics.