Drug-induced co-assembly of albumin/catalase as smart nano-theranostics for deep intra-tumoral penetration, hypoxia relieve, and synergistic combination therapy

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The abnormal tumor microenvironment (TME) featured with hypoxia, acidosis, dense extracellular matrix and increased tumor interstitial fluid pressure is closely related with the resistance of tumors to various therapies. Herein, a unique type of biocompatible nanoscale delivery system is fabricated by utilizing a chemotherapeutic drug, paclitaxel (PTX), to induce co-assembly of catalase and human serum albumin (HSA), the latter of which is pre-modified with chlorine e6 (Ce6), forming smart multifunctional HSA-Ce6-Cat–PTX nanoparticles via a rather simple one-step method. Upon intravenous injection, HSA-Ce6-Cat–PTX nanoparticles show high tumor accumulation and efficient intra-tumoral diffusion, likely owning to their changeable sizes that can maintain large initial sizes (˜ 100 nm) during blood circulation and transform into small protein-drug complexes (< 20 nm) within the tumor. Meanwhile, catalase within those nanoparticles could trigger decomposition of endogenic TME H2O2 to generate oxygen in-situ so as to relieve tumor hypoxia. This effect together with PTX-induced intra-tumoral perfusion enhancement is able to dramatically modulate TME to favor the anti-tumor effect in the combined photodynamic/chemotherapy with HSA-Ce6-Cat–PTX. Thus, our work presents a simple drug-induced self-assembly strategy to fabricate enzyme-loaded therapeutic albumin nanoparticles for synergistic cancer combination therapy.

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