Gemcitabine-vitamin E conjugates: Synthesis, characterization, entrapment into nanoemulsions, and in-vitro deamination and antitumor activity

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Gemcitabine is the first line therapy for pancreatic cancer. It is, however, extensively metabolized to the inactive form by deamination enzymatic reaction. Conjugation of gemcitabine with fatty acids on its 4-amino group was found to protect it from deamination deactivation reaction. The objective of the present study was to test the in-vitro anticancer activity of gemcitabine conjugated to the γ-tocotrienol isomer of vitamin E against pancreatic tumor cells. This objective was based on reported studies in which it was demonstrated that free tocotrienol isomers of vitamin E can potentiate the anticancer activity of gemcitabine. To accomplish this objective, a full synthesis scheme for gemcitabine conjugation to fatty acids (stearic and linoleic) and the tocopherol and tocotrienol isomers of vitamin E (α-T and γ-T3) was presented. The conjugates were characterized by 1H NMR and mass spectrometry analysis and tested for their susceptibility to deamination. Also discussed is the impact of entrapping the conjugates into nanoemulsions on the physiochemical properties of the delivery system and the in vitro anticancer activity of gemcitabine against Bx-PC-3 and PNAC-1 pancreatic cancer cells. In-vitro enzymatic deamination study showed that the γ-T3 conjugate of gemcitabine was least affected by deamination deactivation reaction when compared with the free and conjugated gemcitabine in solution. Furthermore, in-vitro cytotoxicity study demonstrated that entrapment of gemcitabine-lipid conjugates into nanoemulsions significantly enhanced their anticancer activity when compared to the free drug. It was concluded that conjugation to the γ-T3 isomer is a viable option for gemcitabine delivery and is worthy of further investigation.

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