Human serum albumin-based doxorubicin prodrug nanoparticles with tumor pH-responsive aggregation-enhanced retention and reduced cardiotoxicity†
Doxorubicin (DOX) is a widely-used anticancer drug, but its cardiotoxicity severely hampers its potency in chemotherapy. Herein, human serum albumin (HSA) is engaged as a biocompatible nanocarrier to load a pH-sensitive DOX prodrug, DMDOX, generating HSA–DMDOX nanoparticles via self-assembly driven by hydrophobic interactions. HSA–DMDOX disperses well in a physiological environment (∼40 nm) but aggregates in a tumor acidic microenvironment (pH 6.5, ∼140 nm) owing to the hydrophobicity increase of DMDOX by protonation of carboxylic groups. In vitro anticancer study showed that HSA–DMDOX exhibited enhanced cellular uptake by 4T1 cells and superior cytotoxicity in comparison to HSA–DOX nanoparticles. In vivo study suggested that HSA–DMDOX achieved long blood circulation, aggregation enhanced tumor retention, comparable antitumor efficacy and reduced cardiotoxicity relative to free DOX. Our work presents a facile and effective approach to delivering anthracyclines by HSA-based tumor pH-responsive nanoparticles with aggregation-enhanced tumor retention and reduced toxicity.