Precisely albumin-hitchhiking tumor cell-activated reduction/oxidation-responsive docetaxel prodrugs for the hyperselective treatment of breast cancer

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The anticancer efficacy of chemotherapy is greatly limited by short blood circulation and poor tumor selectivity. Thus, anticancer prodrugs with prolonged systemic circulation, tumor-specific distribution and bioactivation, could significantly strengthen the chemotherapy efficacy. Herein, we design two novel tumor cell reduction/oxidation-responsive docetaxel (DTX) prodrugs, DTX-maleimide conjugates with disulfide bond (DSSM) or thioether bond (DSM) linkages, to evaluate the roles of different sensitive linkages in drug release, pharmacokinetics and therapeutic efficacy. An ester bond-linkage prodrug (DM) is utilized as a non-sensitive control. DSSM and DSM show reduction- or oxidation-sensitive release behavior, respectively, and exhibit hyperselective bioactivation and cytotoxicities between cancerous and normal cells. They could instantly hitchhike blood circulating albumin after i.v. administration with albumin-binding half-lives as short as 1min, resulting in prolonged systemic circulation, increased tumor accumulation. In response to the upregulated reduction/oxidation environment within tumor cells, DSSM and DSM exhibit selectively release capacity in tumor tissues, their TAITumor/Liver values are over 30-fold greater than DM. Combining the above delivery advantages into one, DSSM and DSM achieve enhanced antitumor efficacy of DTX. Such a uniquely developed strategy, integrating high albumin-binding capability and reduction/oxidation-sensitive drug superselective release in tumors, has great potential to be applied in clinical cancer therapy.

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