PEGylated polylysine dendrimers have demonstrated potential as inhalable drug delivery systems that can improve the treatment of lung cancers. Their treatment potential may be enhanced by developing constructs that display prolonged lung retention, together with good systemic absorption, the capacity to passively target lung tumors from the blood and highly selective, yet rapid liberation in the tumor microenvironment. This study sought to characterize how the nature of cathepsin B–cleavable peptide linkers, used to conjugate doxorubicin (Dox) to a PEGylated (PEG570) G4 polylysine dendrimer, affects drug liberation kinetics and intravenous and pulmonary pharmacokinetics in rats. The construct bearing a self-emolative diglycolic acid-V-Citrulline linker exhibited faster Dox release kinetics compared to constructs bearing self-emolative diglycolic acid-glycine-leucine-phenylalanine-glycine (GLFG), or non-self-emolative glutaric acid-GLFG linkers. The V-Citrulline construct exhibited slower plasma clearance, but faster absorption from the lungs than a GLFG construct, although mucociliary clearance and urinary elimination were unchanged. Dox-conjugation enhanced localization in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid compared to lung tissue, suggesting that projection of Dox from the dendrimer surface reduced tissue uptake. These data show that the linker chemistry employed to conjugate drugs to PEGylated carriers can affect drug release profiles and systemic and lung disposition.
- cathepsin B
- lung clearance