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Nanomedicine. 2011 Dec;7(6):665-73. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2011.03.001. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

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

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Microbial Science, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


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.


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.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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