Preclinical Biodistribution and Safety Evaluation of a pbi-shRNA STMN1 Lipoplex after Subcutaneous Delivery

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Stathmin-1 (STMN1) is a microtubule-destabilizing protein which is overexpressed in cancer. Its overexpression is associated with poor prognosis and also serves as a predictive marker to taxane therapy. We have developed a proprietary bi-functional shRNA (bi-shRNA) platform to execute RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene silencing and a liposome–carrier complex to systemically deliver the pbi-shRNA plasmids. In vitro and in vivo testing demonstrated efficacy and specificity of pbi-shRNA plasmid in targeting STMN1 (Phadke, A. P., Jay, C. M., Wang, Z., Chen, S., Liu, S., Haddock, C., Kumar, P., Pappen, B. O., Rao, D. D., Templeton, N. S., et al. (2011). In vivo safety and antitumor efficacy of bifunctional small hairpin RNAs specific for the human Stathmin 1 oncoprotein. DNA Cell Biol. 30, 715–726.). Biodistribution and toxicology studies in bio-relevant Sprague Dawley rats with pbi-shRNA STMN1 lipoplex revealed that the plasmid DNA was delivered to a broad distribution of organs after a single subcutaneous injection. Specifically, plasmid was detected within the first week using QPCR (threshold 50 copies plasmid/1 µg genomic DNA) at the injection site, lung, spleen, blood, skin, ovary (limited), lymph nodes, and liver. It was not detected in the heart, testis or bone marrow. No plasmid was detected from any organ 30 days after injection. Treatment was well tolerated. Minimal inflammation/erythema was observed at the injection site. Circulating cytokine response was also examined by ELISA. The IL-6 levels were induced within 6 h then declined to the vehicle control level 72 h after the injection. TNFα induction was transiently observed 4 days after the DNA lipoplex treatment. In summary, the pbi-shRNA STMN1 lipoplex was well tolerated and displayed broad distribution after a single subcutaneous injection. The pre-clinical data has been filed to FDA and the pbi-shRNA STMN1 lipoplex is being investigated in a phase I clinical study.

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