Despite the advantages of liposomal drug delivery, the bioavailability of the chemotherapeutic drugs to tumor cells is limited by their slow release from nanocarriers and low drug permeability across cell membranes. Drug encapsulation into stealth thermosensitive liposomes can improve drug delivery to tumors by combining efficient accumulation at tumors and the active release of the payload following remote heat triggering. Short-chain sphingolipids are known to enhance cellular uptake of amphiphilic drugs. We hypothesized that short-chain sphingolipids could be utilized to further improve intracellular drug delivery from a thermoresponsive formulation by enhancing the cell membrane passage of released drug. The following two strategies were investigated: (1) co-delivery of C8-glucosylceramide and doxorubicin within the thermosensitive liposomes and (2) pretreatment with glucosylceramide-enriched drug-free liposomes and subsequent treatment with doxorubicin loaded thermosensitive liposomes. Liposomes were prepared and extensively characterized. Drug uptake, cell cytotoxicity and live cell imaging were performed under normothermic and hyperthermic conditions in melanoma cells. In these studies, hyperthermia improved drug delivery from doxorubicin loaded thermosensitive formulations. However, the results from cell experiments indicated that there was no additional benefit in the co-delivery strategy using doxorubicin loaded glucosylceramide-enriched thermosensitive liposomes. In contrast, cellular studies showed significantly higher doxorubicin internalization in the pretreatment strategy. One-hour exposure of the cells to C8-glucosylceramide before applying hyperthermia caused improved doxorubicin uptake and cytotoxicity as well as an almost instantaneous cellular entry of the doxorubicin released from thermosensitive liposomes. This novel, two-step drug delivery approach can be potentially beneficial for the intracellular delivery of cell impermeable chemotherapeutics.

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Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology
Department of Surgery

Haeri, A., Pedrosa, L. R. C., ten Hagen, T., Dadashzadeh, S., & Koning, G. (2016). A novel combined approach of short-chain sphingolipids and thermosensitive liposomes for improved drug delivery to tumor cells. Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 12(4), 630–644. doi:10.1166/jbn.2016.2199