Biological nanoparticles, such as exosomes, offer an approach to drug delivery because of their innate ability to transport biomolecules. Exosomes are derived from cells and an integral component of cellular communication. However, the cellular cargo of human exosomes could negatively impact their use as a safe drug carrier. Additionally, exosomes have the intrinsic yet enigmatic, targeting characteristics of complex cellular communication. Hence, harnessing the natural transport abilities of exosomes for drug delivery requires predictably targeting these biological nanoparticles.
Researchers from North Dakota State University describe the use of two chemical modifications, incorporating a neuropilin receptor agonist peptide (iRGD) and a hypoxia-responsive lipid for targeting and release of an encapsulated drug from bovine milk exosomes to triple-negative breast cancer cells. Triple-negative breast cancer is a very aggressive and deadly form of malignancy with limited treatment options. Incorporation of both the iRGD peptide and hypoxia-responsive lipid into the lipid bilayer of bovine milk exosomes and encapsulation of the anticancer drug, doxorubicin, created the peptide targeted, hypoxia-responsive bovine milk exosomes, iDHRX. Initial studies confirmed the presence of iRGD peptide and the exosomes’ ability to target the αvβ3 integrin, overexpressed on triple-negative breast cancer cells’ surface. These modified exosomes were stable under normoxic conditions but fragmented in the reducing microenvironment created by 10 mM glutathione. In vitro cellular internalization studies in monolayer and three-dimensional (3D) spheroids of triple-negative breast cancer cells confirmed the cell-killing ability of iDHRX. Cell viability of 50% was reached at 10 μM iDHRX in the 3D spheroid models using four different triple-negative breast cancer cell lines. Overall, the tumor penetrating, hypoxia-responsive exosomes encapsulating doxorubicin would be effective in reducing triple-negative breast cancer cells’ survival.