14 Scopus citations


Despite their notorious adverse effects, glucocorticoids (GC, potent anti-inflammatory drugs) are used extensively in clinical management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other chronic inflammatory diseases. To achieve a sustained therapeutic efficacy and reduced toxicities, macromolecular GC prodrugs have been developed with promising outcomes for the treatment of RA. Fine-tuning the activation kinetics of these prodrugs may further improve their therapeutic efficacy and minimize the off-target adverse effects. To assess the feasibility of this strategy, five different dexamethasone (Dex, a potent GC)-containing monomers with distinctively different linker chemistries were designed, synthesized, and copolymerized with N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide (HPMA) to obtain 5 macromolecular Dex prodrugs. Their Dex releasing rates were analyzed in vitro and shown to display a wide spectrum of activation kinetics. Their therapeutic efficacy and preliminary toxicology profiles were assessed and compared in vivo in an adjuvant-induced arthritis (AA) rat model in order to identify the ideal prodrug design for the most effective and safe treatment of inflammatory arthritis. The in vivo data demonstrated that the C3 hydrazone linker-containing prodrug design was the most effective in preserving joint structural integrity. The results from this study suggest that the design and screening of different activation mechanisms may help to identify macromolecular prodrugs with the most potent therapeutic efficacy and safety for the management of inflammatory arthritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-573
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
StatePublished - Aug 10 2020


  • Controlled release
  • Dexamethasone
  • HPMA copolymer
  • Inflammation
  • Prodrug
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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