Heating treatments affect the thermal behaviour of doxorubicin loaded in PEGylated liposomes
Doxil® is a stealth marketed PEGylated liposomal formulation, containing the anticancer drug doxorubicin. After loading via a pH gradient, fibrillar supramolecular structures of doxorubicin sulfate originates inside the core of the liposomes. Recently, the crystallinity of doxorubicin sulfate has been confirmed by high-resolution calorimetry. However, no detailed information are available on the nature of doxorubicin sulfate nanocrystals and on the effect of different thermal treatments. Thus, the aim of this work was to characterize the thermal behaviour of Doxil® in comparison to the unloaded liposomes using microcalorimetry, dynamic light scattering and high-resolution ultrasound spectroscopy (HR-US). Different thermal programmes were applied with the aim to highlight the effect of the treatments on the formulation. The used techniques confirmed the ordered state of doxorubicin nanocrystals inside PEGylated liposomes. Particularly, microcalorimetry and HR-US highlighted the changes in the thermal behaviour of the drug under different heating programmes. Doxorubicin nanocrystals were found to be stable after heating up to 80 °C, but an irreversible thermal behaviour was observed after a prolonged heating at elevated temperature (2 h at 80 °C). The non-reversibility could be related to the formation of a different ordered structure and enhanced by the slight leakage of the drug occurring after a prolonged heating.