Chloroquine-Modified Hydroxyethyl Starch as a Polymeric Drug for Cancer Therapy

Richard Sleightholm, Bin Yang, Fei Yu, Ying Xie, David Oupický

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Hydroxyethyl starch (HES) is a clinically used polysaccharide colloidal plasma volume expander. The goal of this study was to synthesize HES modified with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a novel polymeric drug with the ability to inhibit the invasive character of pancreatic cancer (PC) cells. HES was conjugated with HCQ using a simple carbonyldiimidazole coupling to prepare Chloroquine-modified HES (CQ-HES). CQ-HES with various degrees of HCQ substitution were synthesized and characterized. Atomic force microscopy was used to demonstrate a pH-dependent assembly of CQ-HES into well-defined nanoparticles. In vitro studies in multiple PC cell lines showed CQ-HES to have a similar toxicity profile as HCQ. Confocal microscopy revealed the propensity of CQ-HES to localize to lysosomes and mechanistic studies confirmed the ability of CQ-HES to inhibit autophagy in PC cells. Further studies demonstrated a greatly enhanced ability of CQ-HES to inhibit the migration and invasion of PC cells when compared with HCQ. The enhanced inhibitory actions of CQ-HES compared to HCQ appeared to arise in part from the increased inhibition of ERK and Akt phosphorylation. We found no significant HCQ release from CQ-HES, which confirmed that the observed activity was due to the action of CQ-HES as a polymeric drug. Due to its promising ability to block cancer cell invasion and the ability to form nanoparticles, CQ-HES has the potential as a drug delivery platform suitable for future development with chemotherapeutics to establish novel antimetastatic treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2247-2257
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 14 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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