The most common and deadly form of primary brain cancer, glioblastoma (GBM), is characterized by significant intratumoral heterogeneity, microvascular proliferation, immune system suppression, and brain tissue invasion. Delivering effective and sustained treatments to the invasive GBM cells intermixed with functioning neural elements is a major goal of advanced therapeutic systems for brain cancer. Previously, we investigated the nanoparticle characteristics that enable targeting of invasive GBM cells. This revealed the importance of minimizing non-specific binding within the relatively adhesive, ‘sticky’ microenvironment of the brain and brain tumors in particular. We refer to such nanoformulations with decreased non-specific adhesivity and receptor targeting as ‘DART’ therapeutics. In this work, we applied this information toward the design and characterization of biodegradable nanocarriers, and in vivo testing in orthotopic experimental gliomas. We formulated particulate nanocarriers using poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) and PLGA-polyethylene glycol (PLGA-PEG) polymers to generate sub-100 nm nanoparticles with minimal binding to extracellular brain components and strong binding to the Fn14 receptor – an upregulated, conserved component in invasive GBM. Multiple particle tracking in brain tissue slices and in vivo testing in orthotopic murine malignant glioma revealed preserved nanoparticle diffusivity and increased uptake in brain tumor cells. These combined characteristics also resulted in longer retention of the DART nanoparticles within the orthotopic tumors compared to non-targeted versions. Taken together, these results and nanoparticle design considerations offer promising new methods to optimize therapeutic nanocarriers for improving drug delivery and treatment for invasive brain tumors.Graphical abstract
Fn14-targeted nanoparticles bind specifically to Fn14 receptor but not to brain ECM and are retained in invasive intracranial tumors over significantly longer periods than non-targeted nanoparticles.