Synthetic enzyme inhibitor: A novel targeting ligand for nanotherapeutic drug delivery inhibiting tumor growth without systemic toxicity

Department of Immunology and Microbial Science, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.
Nanomedicine: nanotechnology, biology, and medicine (Impact Factor: 5.98). 03/2011; 7(6):665-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.nano.2011.03.001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Unresolved problems associated with ligand-targeting of liposomal nanoparticles (NPs) to solid tumors include variable target receptor expression due to genetic heterogeneity and insufficient target specificity, leading to systemic toxicities. This study addresses these issues by developing a novel ligand-targeting strategy for liposomal NPs using RR-11a, a synthetic enzyme inhibitor of Legumain, an asparaginyl endopeptidase. Cell-surface expression of Legumain is driven by hypoxic stress, a hallmark of solid tumors. Legumain-targeted RR-11a-coupled NPs revealed high ligand-receptor affinity, enhanced solid-tumor penetration and uptake by tumor cells. Treatment of tumor-bearing mice with RR-11a-coupled NPs encapsulating doxorubicin resulted in improved tumor selectivity and drug sensitivity, leading to complete inhibition of tumor growth. These antitumor effects were achieved while eliminating systemic drug toxicity. Therefore, synthetic enzyme inhibitors, such as RR-11a, represent a new class of compounds that can be used for highly specific ligand-targeting of NPs to solid tumors. FROM THE CLINICAL EDITOR: This study addresses the problems associated with ligand-targeting of liposomal nanoparticles to solid tumors with variable target receptor expression. A novel and efficacious targeting strategy has been developed towards a synthetic enzyme inhibitor of Legumain. The authors demonstrate successful tumor growth inhibiting effect while eliminating systemic drug toxicity in an animal model using this strategy.

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Available from: Ze Liu, Jan 30, 2015
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    • "Thus, following legumaininduced activation, this prodrug proved effective to treat cancers with reduced toxicity [Liu et al., 2003; Bajjuri et al., 2011]. Moreover, Legumain-specific ligand-targeting nanoparticles have been effective for breast cancer chemotherapy in mouse model without toxicity [Liao et al., 2011]. Consequently, further studies need to be done to assess if legumain can serve as an effective molecular target for the treatment of ovarian cancer. "
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    ABSTRACT: Legumain is a member of the asparaginyl endopeptidase family that is over-expressed in response to hypoxic stress on mammary adenocarcinoma, colorectal cancer, proliferating endothelial cells, and tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). Here, we demonstrate that elevated expression of legumain in ovarian cancer by a proteomic approach using isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantification (iTRAQ) followed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). To investigate the relationship between legumain expression and ovarian cancer development, we tested legumain expression in malignant human ovarian tumors (n = 60), borderline ovarian tumors (n = 20), benign ovarian tumors (n = 20), and normal ovary samples (n = 20) using immunohistochemical assay (IHC). A correlation between legumain expression, and clinocopathologic and biological variables was also established. Importantly, increased legumain expression was validated by real-time PCR and Western blots, correlated positively with an increased malignancy of ovarian tumors (P < 0.01). In fact, patients with strong legumain expression had a worse prognosis (P = 0.03). In addition, results of in vitro experiments revealed that over-expression of legumain correlates with increased cell migration and invasion of ovarian cancer cells. Although legumain's functional role and clinical utility remain to be established, our results indicated that a sensitive assay for early expression of legumain may serve as both a potential biomarker and a molecular target for treatment of ovarian cancer.
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