Investigation into the Biological Impact of Block Size on Cathepsin S-Degradable HPMA Copolymers

Wei Fan, Wenting Zhang, Yinnong Jia, Susan K. Brusnahan, Jered C. Garrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


N-(2-Hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA) copolymers have been studied as an efficient carrier for drug delivery and tumor imaging. However, as with many macromolecular platforms, the substantial accumulation of HPMA copolymer by the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS)-associated tissues, such as the blood, liver, and spleen, has inhibited its clinical translation. Our laboratory is pursuing approaches to improve the diagnostic and radiotherapeutic effectiveness of HPMA copolymers by reducing the nontarget accumulation. Specifically, we have been investigating the use of a cathepsin S (Cat S)-cleavable peptidic linkers to degrade multiblock HPMA copolymers to increase MPS-associated tissue clearance. In this study, we further our investigation into this area by exploring the impact of copolymer block size on the biological performance of Cat S-degradable HPMA copolymers. Using a variety of in vitro and in vivo techniques, including dual labeling of the copolymer and peptide components, we investigated the constructs using HPAC pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma models. The smaller copolymer block size (S-CMP) demonstrated significantly faster Cat S cleavage kinetics relative to the larger system (L-CMP). Confocal microscopy demonstrated that both constructs could be much more efficiently internalized by human monocyte-differentiated macrophage (hMDM) compared to HPAC cells. In the biodistribution studies, the multiblock copolymers with a smaller block size exhibited faster clearance and lower nontarget retention while still achieving good tumor targeting and retention. Based on the radioisotopic ratios, fragmentation and clearance of the copolymer constructs were higher in the liver compared to the spleen and tumor. Overall, these results indicate that block size plays an important role in the biological performance of Cat S-degradable polymeric constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1405-1417
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Cathepsin S
  • HPMA
  • dual-isotope labeling
  • mononuclear phagocyte system
  • pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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