A Targeted Liposome Delivery System for Combretastatin A4: Formulation Optimization through Drug Loading and In Vitro Release Studies

Ramakrishna Nallamothu, George C. Wood, Mohammad F. Kiani, Bob M. Moore, Frank P. Horton and Laura A. Thoma

Abstract

Efficient liposomal therapeutics require high drug loading and low leakage. The objective of this study is to develop a targeted liposome delivery system for combretastatin A4 (CA4), a novel antivascular agent, with high loading and stable drug encapsulation. Liposomes composed of hydrogenated soybean phosphatidylcholine (HSPC), cholesterol, and distearoyl phosphoethanolamine-PEG-2000 conjugate (DSPE-PEG) were prepared by the lipid film hydration and extrusion process. Cyclic arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) peptides with affinity for αvβ3-integrins overexpressed on tumor vascular endothelial cells were coupled to the distal end of polyethylene glycol (PEG) on the liposomes sterically stabilized with PEG (non-targeted liposomes; LCLs). Effect of lipid concentration, drug-to-lipid ratio, cholesterol, and DSPE-PEG content in the formulation on CA4 loading and its release from the liposomes was studied. Total liposomal CA4 levels obtained increased with increasing lipid concentration in the formulation. As the drug-to-lipid ratio increased from 10:100 to 20:100, total drug in the liposome formulation increased from 1.05 ± 0.11 mg/mL to 1.55 ± 0.13 mg/mL, respectively. When the drug-to-lipid ratio was further raised to 40:100, the total drug in liposome formulation did not increase, but the amount of free drug increased significantly, thereby decreasing the percent of entrapped drug. Increasing cholesterol content in the formulation decreased drug loading. In vitro drug leakage from the liposomes increased with increase in drug-to-lipid ratio or DSPE-PEG content in the formulation; whereas increasing cholesterol content of the formulation up to 30 mol-percent, decreased CA4 leakage from the liposomes. Ligand coupling to the liposome surface increased drug leakage as a function of ligand density. Optimized liposome formulation with 100 mM lipid concentration, 20:100 drug-to-lipid ratio, 30 mol-percent cholesterol, 4 mol-percent DSPE-PEG, and 1 mol-percent DSPE-PEG-maleimide content yielded 1.77 ± 0.14 mg/mL liposomal CA4 with 85.70 ± 1.71% of this being entrapped in the liposomes. These liposomes, with measured size of 123.84 ± 41.23 nm, released no significant amount of the encapsulated drug over 48 h at 37 °C.

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