Nanomedicines, while having been approved for cancer therapy, present many challenges such as low stability, rapid clearance, and nonspecificity leading to off-target toxicity. Cubosomes are porous lyotropic liquid crystalline nanoparticles that have shown great premise as drug delivery vehicles; however, their behavior in vivo is largely underexplored, hindering clinical translation. Here, we have engineered cubosomes based on the space group Im3m that are loaded with copper acetylacetonate as a model drug, and their surfaces are functionalized for the first time with Affimer proteins via copper-free click chemistry to actively target overexpressed carcinoembryonic antigens on LS174T colorectal cancer cells. Unlike nontargeted cubosomes, Affimer tagged cubosomes showed preferential accumulation in cancer cells compared to normal cells not only in vitro (2D monolayer cell culture and 3D spheroid models) but also in vivo in colorectal cancer mouse xenografts, while exhibiting low nonspecific absorption and toxicity in other vital organs. Cancerous spheroids had maximum cell death compared to noncancerous cells upon targeted delivery. Xenografts subjected to targeted drug-loaded cubosomes showed a 5-7-fold higher drug accumulation in the tumor tissue compared to the liver, kidneys, and other vital organs, a significant decrease in tumor growth, and an increased survival rate compared to the nontargeted group. This work encompasses the first thorough preclinical investigation of Affimer targeted cubosomes as a cancer therapeutic.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.