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J Drug Target. 2005 Aug;13(7):391-7.

Doxorubicin loaded pH-sensitive micelle targeting acidic extracellular pH of human ovarian A2780 tumor in mice.

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  • 1University of Utah, Department of Bioengineering, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA.


The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of a chemotherapeutic drug, doxorubicin (DOX), loaded in pH-sensitive micelles poly(l-histidine) (M(n):5K)-b-PEG (M(n):5K) micelles. The micelles were designed to target the acidic extracellular pH of solid tumors. Studies of pH-dependent cytotoxicity, growth rate of the tumor, pharmacokinetics and biodistribution were conducted. In vitro DOX uptake upon A2780 cells by incubating the cells in a pH 6.8 complete medium at a concentration of 20 microg DOX/ml in the micelle formulation was more than five times that of pH 7.4 condition for initial 20 min. In vivo pharmacokinetic data showed that AUC (area under concentration curve) and half life time (t(1/2)) (plasma half life) of DOX in the pH sensitive micelles increased about 5.8- and 5.2-fold of free DOX in phosphate buffered saline (PBS), respectively. It appeared that DOX in the pH-sensitive micelles preferentially accumulated in the tumor site. The distributions at 12 h post injection in other organs including liver, kidney, spleen, lung and heart were not significantly different from those of DOX in PBS at a 6 mg DOX/kg dose. The in vivo test of anti-tumor activity was performed with human ovarian carcinoma A2780 which was subcutaneously xenografted in female nu/nu athymic mice. The pH-sensitive micelle formulation significantly retarded tumor growth rate without serious body weight loss. The triggered drug release by the reduced tumor pH is believed to be a major mechanism of the observed efficacy after passive accumulation of the micelles by EPR effect. This may have resulted in a local high dose of drug in the tested solid tumor.

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