Design of a paclitaxel prodrug conjugate for active targeting of an enzyme upregulated in breast cancer cells

Arpan Satsangi, Sudipa S. Roy, Rajiv K. Satsangi, Ratna K. Vadlamudi, Joo L. Ong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Chemotherapy is an important treatment modality, and paclitaxel (PTX) is often the first-line therapy for its metastatic form. The two most notable limitations related to PTX-based treatment are the poor hydrophilicity of the drug and the systemic toxicity due to the drug's nonspecific and indiscriminate distribution among the tissues. The present work describes an approach to counter both challenges by designing a conjugate of PTX with a hydrophilic macromolecule that is coupled through a biocleavable linker, thereby allowing for active targeting to an enzyme significantly upregulated in cancer cells. The resultant strategy would allow for the release of the active ingredient preferentially at the site of action in related cancer cells and spare normal tissue. Thus, PTX was conjugated to the hydrophilic poly(amdioamine) [PAMAM] dendrimer through the cathepsin B-cleavable tetrapeptide Gly-Phe-Leu-Gly. The PTX prodrug conjugate (PGD) was compared to unbound PTX through in vitro evaluations against breast cancer cells and normal kidney cells as well as through in vivo evaluations using xenograft mice models. As compared to PTX, PGD demonstrated a higher cytotoxicity specific to cell lines with moderate-to-high cathepsin B activity; cells with comparatively lower cathepsin B activity demonstrated an inverse of this relationship. Regression analysis between the magnitude of PGD-induced cytotoxic increase over PTX and cathepsin B expression showed a strong, statistically significant correlation (r2 = 0.652, p < 0.05). The PGD conjugate also demonstrated a markedly higher tumor reduction as compared to PTX treatment alone in MDA-MB-231 tumor xenograft models, with PGD-treated tumor volumes being 48% and 34% smaller than PTX-treated volumes at weeks 2 and 3 after treatment initiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1906-1918
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2 2014


  • active targeting
  • biocleavable linker
  • breast cancer
  • cathepsin B
  • drug delivery
  • paclitaxel-dendrimer conjugate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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