Doxorubicin/heparin composite nanoparticles for caspase-activated prodrug chemotherapy

Nisar Ul Khaliq, Febrina Carolina Sandra, Dal Yong Park, Jae Young Lee, Keun Sang Oh, Dongkyu Kim, Youngro Byun, In San Kim, Ick Chan Kwon, Sang Yoon Kim, Soon Hong Yuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Caspase-activated prodrug chemotherapy is introduced and demonstrated using the composite nanoparticles (NPs), which deliver doxorubicin (DOX) and DEVD-S-DOX together to the tumor tissue. DEVD-S-DOX, DOX linked to a peptide moiety (DEVD), is a prodrug that is cleaved into free DOX by caspase-3 upon apoptosis. DEVD-S-DOX has no therapeutic efficacy, but it changes into free DOX with the expression of caspase-3. With the accumulation of the composite NPs in the tumor tissue by the enhanced permeation and retention (EPR) effect, a small exposure of DOX in the tumor cells initiated apoptosis in a localized area of the tumor tissue, which induced caspase-3 activation. Cleavage of DEVD-S-DOX into free DOX by caspase-3 continued with repetitive activation of caspase-3 and cleavage of DEVD-S-DOX at the tumor site. The composite NPs were characterized with transmittance electron microscopy (TEM) and particle size analyzer. We then evaluated the nanoparticle drug release, therapeutic efficacy, and in vivo biodistribution for tumor targeting using a non-invasive live animal imaging technology and the quantification of DOX with high performance liquid chromatography. DOX-induced apoptosis-targeted chemotherapy (DIATC) was verified by in vitro/in vivo DEVD-S-DOX response to free DOX and cellular uptake behavior of the composite NPs with flow cytometry analysis. Significant antitumor efficacy with minimal cardiotoxicity was also observed, which supported DIATC for improved chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-142
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sept 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Caspase-3
  • Doxorubicin
  • Doxorubicin prodrug
  • Doxorubicin-induced apoptosis-targeted chemotherapy
  • Heparin
  • The composite nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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