Pulmonary delivery of transferrin receptors targeting peptide surface-functionalized liposomes augments the chemotherapeutic effect of quercetin in lung cancer therapy

Muhammad Kashif Riaz, Xue Zhang, Ka Hong Wong, Huoji Chen, Qiang Liu, Xiaoyu Chen, Ge Zhang, Aiping Lu, Zhijun Yang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Lung cancer has a high incidence rate worldwide with a 5-year survival rate of 18%, and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The aim of this study is to augment therapeutic efficacy of quercetin (QR) for lung cancer therapy by targeting transferrin receptors, which are overexpressed and confined to tumor cells.

Methods: In this study, T7 surface-functionalized liposomes loaded with QR (T7-QR-lip) having different T7 peptide densities (0.5%, 1% and 2%) were prepared by the film hydration method. T7 surface-functionalized liposomes were characterized and evaluated in terms of in vitro cytotoxicity and cellular uptake, 3D tumor spheroid penetration and inhibition capabilities, in vivo biodistribution and therapeutic efficacy in mice with orthotopic lung-tumor implantation by fluorescent and bioluminescent imaging via pulmonary administration.

Results: In vitro, 2% T7-QR-lip exhibited significantly augmented cytotoxicity (~3-fold), higher apoptosis induction and S-phase cell-cycle arrest. A prominent peak right-shift and enhanced mean fluorescence intensity was observed in A549 cells treated with T7 Coumarin-6 liposomes (T7-Cou6-lip), confirming the target specificity of T7 targeted liposomes; while, after treatment with T7-QR-lip and non-targeted QR-lip, no significant difference was observed in cellular uptake and in vitro cytotoxicity studies in MRC-5 (normal lung fibroblast) cells. T7-Cou 6-lip showed higher fluorescence intensity in A549 cells and a significantly deeper penetration depth of 120 µm in the core of the tumor spheroids and T7-QR-lip produced significantly higher tumor-spheroid growth inhibition. The in vivo biodistribution study via pulmonary delivery of T7 1,1'-dioctadecyltetramethyl-indotricarbocyanine iodide liposomes demonstrated liposome accumulation in the lungs and sustained-release behavior up to 96 h. Further, T7-QR-lip significantly enhanced the anticancer activity of QR and lifespan of mice (p<0.01, compared with saline) in orthotopic lung tumor-bearing mice via pulmonary administration.

Conclusion: T7 surface-functionalized liposomes provide a potential drug delivery system for a range of anticancer drugs to enhance their therapeutic efficacy by localized (pulmonary) administration and targeted delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2879-2902
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Lung cancer
  • Orthotopic lung cancer model
  • Pulmonary delivery
  • Quercetin
  • Surface-functionalized liposomes
  • T7 peptide


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