Novel, nano-sized, liposome-encapsulated polyamidoamine dendrimer derivatives facilitate tumour targeting by overcoming the polyethylene glycol dilemma and integrin saturation obstacle

<p>Drug delivery systems (DDSs) commonly employ arginine–glycine–aspartic acid (RGD) peptides with polyethylene glycol (PEG)-dependent enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect to optimise tumour-targeting. However, the PEG dilemma and integrin saturation obstacle are major challenges. To address these issues, we constructed a novel, nano-sized DDS by encapsulating doxorubicin (DOX)-loaded folic acid derivatives of polyamidoamine dendrimer (PAMAM G5.0) in cyclic RGD-tyrosine-lysine pentapeptide (c[RGDyK])-modified liposomes (RGD-SL[FND/DOX]), prepared using thin-film hydration, film-dispersion and hydration-sonication. The liposomes were PEGylated, sterically stabilised and pH-sensitive. <i>In vitro</i>, RGD-SL[FND/DOX] showed pH-sensitive holistic FND/DOX release, and pH-dependent uptake and cytotoxicity in human cancer KB cells. At pH 7.4, RGD-SL[FND/DOX] demonstrated greater cellular uptake and cytotoxicity than relevant control formulations (except FND/DOX) did, although this advantage disappeared at pH 6.5. <i>In vivo</i>, RGD-SL[FND/DOX] inhibited S180 sarcoma xenografted tumour growth in Kunming mice more effectively than FND/DOX did. These findings demonstrate the feasibility of constructing double-stage tumour-targeting nano-sized DDSs such as RGD-SL[FND/DOX]. c[RGDyK] and the EPR effect, facilitated by the particle size (about 110 nm) and PEGylation, helped to target the DDS to the tumour tissue, while the subsequent pH-dependent release of FND/DOX and folic acid-mediated endocytosis specifically targeted the tumour cells, thereby overcoming the PEG dilemma and integrin saturation obstacle.</p>