Dual-responsive click-crosslinked micelles designed for enhanced chemotherapy for solid tumors†
The design of multiple stimuli-responsive, stable polymeric drug carriers is key for efficient drug release against solid tumors. Herein, core-crosslinked micelles were readily prepared from a pair of redox/pH-sensitive clickable copolymers. The two copolymers comprised the same poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-poly(ε-benzyloxycarbonyl-L-lysine) (PZLL) block but with either disulfide-linked azadibenzocyclooctyne (DBCO) or azide (AZ) group-tagged branched polyethylenimine (BPEI, 1.8 kDa). The data showed that an equivalent of the two copolymers could self-assemble into nanosized micelles with the crosslinked core via the DBCO–AZ click chemistry. The click-crosslinked micelles showed excellent size stability under multiple dilutions but destabilization in an acidic or reductive environment. Besides, they could load doxorubicin (DOX), an anticancer drug, and mediate slow drug release in a neutral environment but sufficient drug unloading under acidic plus reductive conditions. In vitro, DOX-loaded crosslinked micelles led to higher DOX accumulation in the cellular nucleus in comparison with non-crosslinked micelles from the PEG-PZLL-BPEI copolymer (PP), thus causing more marked cytotoxicity in SKOV-3 cells. In vivo, DOX-loaded crosslinked micelles caused significant growth inhibition of SKOV-3 tumors xenografted in BALB/c nude mice, and showed superior anticancer efficacy to non-crosslinked PP micelles. Chemotherapy with core-crosslinked micelles had no adverse side effects on the health (serum levels and body weight) of the mice. This study highlights the design of clickable block copolymers to easily construct core-crosslinked and multiple stimuli-responsive micelles for enhanced anticancer therapy.