Theranostics 2018; 8(15):4033-4049. doi:10.7150/thno.24945 This issue

Research Paper

Pharmacokinetics and biodistribution of polymeric micelles containing miRNA and small-molecule drug in orthotopic pancreatic tumor-bearing mice

Virender Kumar1, Vaibhav Mundra1, Yang Peng1, Yingzhe Wang2, Chalet Tan2,✉, Ram I. Mahato1,✉

1. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA
2. Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, University of Mississippi, MS 38677, USA

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Kumar V, Mundra V, Peng Y, Wang Y, Tan C, Mahato RI. Pharmacokinetics and biodistribution of polymeric micelles containing miRNA and small-molecule drug in orthotopic pancreatic tumor-bearing mice. Theranostics 2018; 8(15):4033-4049. doi:10.7150/thno.24945. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Rationale: Successful treatment of pancreatic cancer remains a challenge due to desmoplasia and prevalence of KRAS mutation. While hedgehog (Hh) ligand levels are upregulated in pancreatic cancer cells and contribute to desmoplasia, there is significant downregulation of tumor suppressor let-7b, which targets mutant KRAS, C-MYC and several other genes involved in pancreatic cancer progression, invasion, and metastasis. We recently explored combination therapy of GDC-0449 (Hh inhibitor) and let-7b mimic using poly(ethylene glycol)-block-poly(2-methyl-2-carboxyl-propylene carbonate-graft-dodecanol-graft-tetraethylenepentamine) (PEG-b-PCC-g-DC-g-TEPA) micelles in pancreatic tumor mouse model. Here, our objective was to determine the biodistribution (BD), pharmacokinetics (PK), therapeutic efficacy and toxicity of this micellar formulation.

Methods: We determined the PK of micelles encapsulating Cy5.5-let-7b and GDC-0449 following intravenous injection in orthotopic pancreatic tumor-bearing NSG mice at doses of 2 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg, respectively. Mice were scanned for fluorescence by IVIS to determine the biodistribution of Cy5.5-let-7b at the whole-body level, and its concentration in plasma and major organs was determined by measuring fluorescence using a fluorimeter and by real-time RT-PCR. GDC-0449 concentration was determined by LC/MS/MS. Therapeutic efficacy and toxicity of the micellar formulation of let-7b and GDC-0449 was also determined after two weeks of treatment.

Results: The use of a micellar formulation markedly prolonged the elimination half-life (t1/2, e) of Cy5.5-let-7b in plasma from 0.49 ± 0.19 h to 2.65 ± 0.46 h and increased the area-under-the-curve (AUC0-∞) by 7-fold, while t1/2,e and AUC0-∞ of GDC-0449 were increased by 1.78-fold and 3.2-fold, respectively. The micelles significantly decreased the clearance of both encapsulated let-7b mimic and GDC-0449 compared to the emulsion formulation. Compared to the emulsion counterpart, the micellar formulation elevated the delivery of Cy5.5-let-7b and GDC-0449 to the orthotopic pancreatic tumor tissue by 7.8- and 4.2-fold, respectively. Furthermore, there was a significant reduction in tumor volume and negligible systemic toxicity as evident by hematological parameters and histological evaluation.

Conclusion: PEG-b-PCC-g-DC-g-TEPA micelles carrying GDC-0449 and let-7b mimic have great potential to improve drug delivery for pancreatic cancer treatment.

Keywords: pancreatic cancer, let-7b, micelles, GDC-0449, pharmacokinetics, biodistribution