Crosslinked polymeric self-assemblies as an efficient strategy for photodynamic therapy on a 3D cell culture†
In order to compare the efficiency of crosslinked nano-vectors in the field of photodynamic therapy (PDT) both on 2D and 3D cell cultures, various polymeric crosslinked self-assemblies based on poly(ethyleneoxide-b-ε-caprolactone) have been synthesized by radical polymerization of acrylate end-functionalized polymers. Crosslinked self-assemblies obtained from the reaction of the functionalized polymers with ethyleneglycoldimethacrylate (EGDMA) were compared to chain-end polymerized and to unreacted ones. Polymeric micelles with a size between 10 and 20 nm were obtained, as well as an elongated system with a length close to 100 nm. They all have been characterized by Transmission Electron Microscopy and Dynamic Light Scattering but also by Asymmetrical Flow Field-Flow Fractionation in order to prove that they consisted of pure self-assemblies. Chain-end polymerization or crosslinking did not induce any change in morphology nor strong size modification. After post-encapsulation of a photosensitizer, namely Pheophorbide a, the systems have been examined for their potential use in PDT on HCT-116 and FaDu human tumor cell lines both in 2D and 3D cultures. The crosslinked vectors were observed to be the most efficient on both cell lines cultivated in 3D spheroids, whereas unreacted or chain-end polymerized ones presented a lower activity. This was different from the trend observed in 2D cell cultures where an uncrosslinked micelle was observed to be efficient at a lower concentration compared to its chain-end polymerized or crosslinked analogue. The different synthesized self-assemblies also allowed assessing the influence of polymer chain length and shape on PDT efficiency. The molecular weight of the polymer did not lead in our case to efficiency change, for similar size and surface characteristics. As for the shape effect, the elongated self-assembly was not observed in our case to be more efficient than spherical micelles. Crosslinked polymeric vectors are therefore promising vectors for 3D tumor treatment.