Synergistic targeting/prodrug strategies for intravesical drug delivery — Lectin-modified PLGA microparticles enhance cytotoxicity of stearoyl gemcitabine by contact-dependent transfer

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The direct access to the urothelial tissue via intravesical therapy has emerged as a promising means for reducing the high recurrence rate of bladder cancer. However, few advanced delivery concepts have so far been evaluated to overcome critical inherent efficacy limitations imposed by short exposure times, low tissue permeability, and extensive washout. This study reports on a novel strategy to enhance gemcitabine treatment impact on urothelial cells by combining a pharmacologically advantageous prodrug approach with the pharmacokinetic benefits of a glycan-targeted carrier system. The conversion of gemcitabine to its 4-(N)-stearoyl derivative (GEM-C18) allowed for stable, homogeneous incorporation into PLGA microparticles (MP) without compromising intracellular drug activation. Fluorescence-labeled GEM-C18-PLGA-MP were surface-functionalized with wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) or human serum albumin (HSA) to assess in direct comparison the impact of biorecognitive interaction on binding rate and anchoring stability. MP adhesion on urothelial cells of non-malignant origin (SV-HUC-1), and low- (5637) or high-grade (HT-1376) carcinoma was correlated to the resultant antiproliferative and antimetabolic effect in BrdU and XTT assays. More extensive and durable binding of the WGA-GEM-C18-PLGA-MP induced a change in the pharmacological profile and substantially higher cytotoxicity, allowing for maximum response within the temporal restrictions of instillative administration (120 min). Mechanistically, a direct, contact-dependent transfer of stearoyl derivatives from the particle matrix to the urothelial membrane was found to account for this effect. With versatile options for future application, our results highlight the potential offered by the synergistic implementation of targeting/prodrug strategies in delivery systems tailored to the intravesical route.Graphical abstract

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