Two-Wave Nanotherapy To Target the Stroma and Optimize Gemcitabine Delivery To a Human Pancreatic Cancer Model in Mice
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) elicits a dense stromal response that blocks vascular access, because of pericyte coverage of vascular fenestrations. In this way, the PDAC stroma contributes to chemotherapy resistance in addition to causing other problems. In order to improve the delivery of gemcitabine, a first line chemotherapeutic agent, a PEGylated drug-carrying liposome was developed, using a transmembrane ammonium sulfate gradient to encapsulate the protonated drug up to 20% w/w. However, because the liposome was precluded from entering the xenograft site due to the stromal interference, we developed a first wave nanocarrier that decreases pericyte coverage of the vasculature through interference in the pericyte recruiting TGF-β signaling pathway. This was accomplished using a polyethyleneimine (PEI)/polyethylene glycol (PEG)-coated mesoporous silica nanoparticle (MSNP) for molecular complexation to a small molecule inhibitor, LY364947. LY364947 contains a nitrogen atom that attaches, through H-bonding, to PEI amines with a high rate of efficiency. The co-polymer coating also facilitates systemic biodistribution and retention at the tumor site. Because of the high loading capacity and pH dependent LY364947 release from the MSNPs, we achieved rapid entry of IV injected liposomes and MSNPs at the PDAC tumor site. This two-wave approach provided effective shrinkage of the tumor xenografts beyond 25 days, compared to the treatment with free drug or gemcitabine-loaded liposomes only. Not only does this approach overcome stromal resistance to drug delivery in PDAC, but also introduces the concept of using a step-wise engineered approach to address a range of biological impediments that interfere in nanocancer therapy in a spectrum of cancers.