Targeting the Tumor Core: Hypoxia-Responsive Nanoparticles for the Delivery of Chemotherapy to Pancreatic Tumors

Matthew I. Confeld, Babak Mamnoon, Li Feng, Heather Jensen-Smith, Priyanka Ray, James Froberg, Jiha Kim, Michael A. Hollingsworth, Mohiuddin Quadir, Yongki Choi, Sanku Mallik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


In pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), early onset of hypoxia triggers remodeling of the extracellular matrix, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, increased cell survival, the formation of cancer stem cells, and drug resistance. Hypoxia in PDAC is also associated with the development of collagen-rich, fibrous extracellular stroma (desmoplasia), resulting in severely impaired drug penetration. To overcome these daunting challenges, we created polymer nanoparticles (polymersomes) that target and penetrate pancreatic tumors, reach the hypoxic niches, undergo rapid structural destabilization, and release the encapsulated drugs. In vitro studies indicated a high cellular uptake of the polymersomes and increased cytotoxicity of the drugs under hypoxia compared to unencapsulated drugs. The polymersomes decreased tumor growth by nearly 250% and significantly increased necrosis within the tumors by 60% in mice compared to untreated controls. We anticipate that these polymer nanoparticles possess a considerable translational potential for delivering drugs to solid hypoxic tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2849-2863
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2020


  • hypoxia-responsive
  • nanoparticles
  • pancreatic cancer
  • polymersomes
  • tumor-penetrating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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