Posts Tagged ‘Nanotechnology in cancer’

Targeted Liposome Based Delivery System to Present HLA Class I Antigens to Tumor Cells: Two papers

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.



Cell-mediated immunotherapies have potential as stand-alone and adjuvant therapies for cancer. However, most current protocols suffer from one or more of three major issues: cost, safety, or efficacy. Here we present a nanoparticle delivery system that facilitates presentation of an immunogenic measles antigen specifically in cancer cells. The delivery system does not contain viral particles, toxins, or biologically derived material. Treatment with this system facilitates activation of a secondary immune response against cancer cells, bypassing the need to identify tumor-associated antigens or educate the immune system through a primary immune response. The delivery system consists of a stealth liposome displaying a cancer-specific targeting peptide, named H1299.3, on its exterior surface and encapsulating H250, an immunogenic human leukocyte antigen class 1 restricted peptide. This targeted-nanoparticle facilitates presentation of the H250 peptide in major histocompatibility complex class I molecules. Activation is dependent on the targeting peptide, previous antigen exposure, and utilizes a novel autophagy-mediated mechanism to facilitate presentation. Treatment with this liposome results in a significant reduction of tumor growth using an aggressive LLC1 model in vaccinated C57BL/6 mice. These data provide proof-of-principle for a novel cell-mediated immunotherapy that is scalable, contains no biologically derived material, and is an efficacious cancer therapy.


Cell-mediated (CM) immunotherapies for cancer treatment are designed to activate the body’s adaptive immune responses against a malignant growth.1,2 Generally, the goal of a CM response is to activate a cytotoxic T-cell response against a tumor to eliminate cancer cells. The principle of these treatments is straightforward, yet current work studying the complexity of the tumor micro-environment2,3 as well as methods that attempt to directly activate T cells against tumor antigens4,5,6 demonstrate the difficulty associated generating an immune response against a tumor.

Several CM cancer immunotherapies exist today. Major examples include PD-1 inhibitors, injection of live virus or viral particles into tumors, and adoptive T-cell therapies.1,6,7,8 However, concerns regarding efficacy, safety, and/or cost have limited the use of many of these treatments. To address these concerns, we sought to develop a novel treatment based on developing a fully synthetic, minimal delivery system that facilitates presentation of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I restricted immunogenic peptides specifically on cancer cells without using live virus, viral subunits, or biologically derived material.

Based on these requirements, we developed a liposomal based agent consisting of a neutral, stealth liposome that encapsulates a synthetically manufactured immunogenic HLA class I restricted peptide derived from measles virus.1,2,9 In addition, the liposome has a targeting peptide on the external surface that both specifically accumulates in cancer cells and facilitates presentation of the immunogenic peptide in HLA class I molecules (Figure 1a). Thus, this treatment is designed to generate a secondary CM immune response specifically against the tumor if the patient was previously vaccinated against or infected with measles.

Figure 1

The minimal antigen delivery system consists of three components. (a) PEGylated stealth liposomes are loaded with an immunogenic human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class 1 restricted peptide derived from measles virus, named H250. The surface of the liposome

In this proof-of-concept study, we synthesized a liposome that encapsulates H250,1 an immunogenic HLA class 1 restricted peptide identified from measles hemagglutinin protein. The liposome is designed to specifically internalize in cancer cells by displaying the recently identified targeting peptide H1299.3 on the exterior surface (Figure 1b).10 H1299.3 is a 20mer, cancer-specific targeting peptide that was recently identified by our group. The peptide was identified using a novel phage display technique that allows for selection of cancer-specific targeting peptides that preferentially internalize in cancer cells via a defined mechanism of endocytosis. This peptide was dimerized on a lysine core and is fully functional outside the context of the phage particle. The H1299.3 peptide accumulates specifically in a panel of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines compared to a normal bronchial epithelial cell control cell line via a clathrin-dependent mechanism of endocytosis. In this study, we demonstrate that H1299.3 facilitates functional presentation of an immunogenic antigen in both major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and HLA class I molecules as indicated by CD8+-specific interferon (IFN)γ secretion. In addition, H1299.3 facilitated presentation utilizes an autophagy-dependent mechanism. Finally, treatment with H1299.3 targeted liposomes containing H250 substantially reduces the growth rate of subcutaneous LLC1 tumors implanted in vaccinated C57BL/6 mice compared to treatment with vehicle control.

Result summarized:

  1. The H1299.3 targeting ligand specifically accumulates in cancer and facilitates HLA class I presentation: H250 is an immunogenic peptide identified from sequencing peptides present in HLA A*0201 molecules following measles infection. identified two donors that were HLA A*02 positive and had previously been vaccinated against measles virus (the human NSCLC cell line, H1993, which we determined to be HLA A*02 positive)
  2. identified three different cancer-specific targeting peptides that internalize into H1993 that have been previously published: H1299.2, H2009.1, and H1299.3. Each of these peptides specifically internalize in NSCLC cell lines compared to normal bronchial epithelial cells
  3. H1299.3 facilitated HLA class I presentation requires autophagy. H1299.3 peptide colocalizes with Lamp-1 which is a marker of both lysosomes and autolysosomes, therefore it was possible autophagy involved and shown that H1299.3 colocalizes with autophagosomes.  Chlorpromazine, which inhibits clathrin coated mediatated endocytosis, decreased the HLA1 presentation of H250.
  4. H1299.3-targeted liposomes encapsulating H250 reduce tumor burden in vivo. Mice were first vaccinated against H250.  The J1299.3 targeted liposome encapsulation H250 reduced tumor growth of LLC1 s.c. xenograpfts  by 50%.
J Transl Med. 2011 Mar 31;9:34. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-9-34.

Enhanced presentation of MHC class Ia, Ib and class II-restricted peptides encapsulated in biodegradable nanoparticles: a promising strategy for tumor immunotherapy.



Many peptide-based cancer vaccines have been tested in clinical trials with a limited success, mostly due to difficulties associated with peptide stability and delivery, resulting in inefficient antigen presentation. Therefore, the development of suitable and efficient vaccine carrier systems remains a major challenge.


To address this issue, we have engineered polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) nanoparticles incorporating: (i) two MHC class I-restricted clinically-relevant peptides, (ii) a MHC class II-binding peptide, and (iii) a non-classical MHC class I-binding peptide. We formulated the nanoparticles utilizing a double emulsion-solvent evaporation technique and characterized their surface morphology, size, zeta potential and peptide content. We also loaded human and murine dendritic cells (DC) with the peptide-containing nanoparticles and determined their ability to present the encapsulated peptide antigens and to induce tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in vitro.


We confirmed that the nanoparticles are not toxic to either mouse or human dendritic cells, and do not have any effect on the DC maturation. We also demonstrated a significantly enhanced presentation of the encapsulated peptides upon internalization of the nanoparticles by DC, and confirmed that the improved peptide presentation is actually associated with more efficient generation of peptide-specific CTL and T helper cell responses.


Encapsulating antigens in PLGA nanoparticles offers unique advantages such as higher efficiency of antigen loading, prolonged presentation of the antigens, prevention of peptide degradation, specific targeting of antigens to antigen presenting cells, improved shelf life of the antigens, and easy scale up for pharmaceutical production. Therefore, these findings are highly significant to the development of synthetic vaccines, and the induction of CTL for adoptive immunotherapy.

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free PMC Article


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Tumor Shrinking Triple Helices

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Tumor-Shrinking Triple-Helices

A braided structure and some adhesive hydrogel make therapeutic microRNAs both stable and sticky.

By Ruth Williams | April 1, 2016


MicroRNAs (miRs) are small, noncoding ribonucleic acids that control the translation of target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Given their roles in development, differentiation, and other cellular processes, misregulation of miRs can contribute to diseases such as cancer. Indeed, “they are recognized as important modulators of cancer progression,” says Natalie Artzi of Harvard Medical School.

In addition to occasionally promoting cancer pathology, miRs also hold the potential to treat it—either by restoring levels of suppressed miRs, or by repressing overactive ones using antisense miRs (antagomiRs). While miRs are promising therapeutic molecules, says Daniel Siegwart of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, their use “is currently hindered by at least two issues: nucleic acid instability in vivo, and the development of effective delivery systems to transport miRs into tumor cells.”

Artzi and her team have now addressed both of these issues in one fell swoop. They first assembled two therapeutic miRs—one antagomiR and one that replaced a deficient miR—together with a third miR, a complement of the replacement strand, into triple-helix structures, which increased molecular stability without affecting function. They then complexed these helices with dendrimers—large synthetic branching polymer particles—and mixed these complexes with dextran aldehyde to form an adhesive hydrogel. The gel could then be applied directly to the surface of tumors to deliver the therapeutic miRs into cells with high efficiency.

In mice with induced breast tumors, the triple-helix–hydrogel approach led to dramatic tumor shrinkage and extended life span: the animals survived approximately one month longer than those treated with standard-of-care chemotherapy drugs. Because the RNA-hydrogel mixture must be applied directly to the tumor, the approach will not be suitable for all cancers. But one potential application, says Siegwart, is that “the hydrogel could be applied by a surgeon after performing bulk tumor removal…[and] might kill remaining tumor cells that would otherwise cause tumor recurrence.” (Nature Materials,, 2015)

STICKING IT TO TUMORS: To deliver therapeutic microRNAs (miRs) to tumors, braids of three microRNAs (miRs)—an antisense strand that blocks a miR overactive in cancer, a strand that replaces a deficient miR, and a stabilizing strand (1)—are added to a dendrimer (2) and mixed with a hydrogel scaffold (3). When researchers introduced the sticky gel onto mouse mammary tumors (4), the malignancies shrank and the animals lived longer (5)© GEORGE RETSECK; J.CONDE ET AL., NATURE MATERIALS


Nanoparticles Examples: gold particles, liposomes, peptide nucleic acids, or polymers Usually multiple injections Combining miRs with aptamers or antibodies can guide nanoparticles to target cells, but systemic delivery inevitably leads to some off-target dispersion. Multisite or blood cancers
RNA–triple-helix-hydrogel Dendrimer-dextran hydrogel One Adhesive hydrogel sticks miRs to tumor site with minimal dispersion to other tissues. Solid Tumors


Self-assembled RNA-triple-helix hydrogel scaffold for microRNA modulation in the tumour microenvironment

João CondeNuria OlivaMariana AtilanoHyun Seok Song & Natalie Artzi
Nature Materials15,353–363(2016)

The therapeutic potential of miRNA (miR) in cancer is limited by the lack of efficient delivery vehicles. Here, we show that a self-assembled dual-colour RNA-triple-helix structure comprising two miRNAs—a miR mimic (tumour suppressor miRNA) and an antagomiR (oncomiR inhibitor)—provides outstanding capability to synergistically abrogate tumours. Conjugation of RNA triple helices to dendrimers allows the formation of stable triplex nanoparticles, which form an RNA-triple-helix adhesive scaffold upon interaction with dextran aldehyde, the latter able to chemically interact and adhere to natural tissue amines in the tumour. We also show that the self-assembled RNA-triple-helix conjugates remain functional in vitro and in vivo, and that they lead to nearly 90% levels of tumour shrinkage two weeks post-gel implantation in a triple-negative breast cancer mouse model. Our findings suggest that the RNA-triple-helix hydrogels can be used as an efficient anticancer platform to locally modulate the expression of endogenous miRs in cancer.


Figure 1: Self-assembled RNA-triple-helix hydrogel nanoconjugates and scaffold for microRNA delivery.

Self-assembled RNA-triple-helix hydrogel nanoconjugates and scaffold for microRNA delivery.

a, Schematic showing the self-assembly process of three RNA strands to form a dual-colour RNA triple helix. The RNA triplex nanoparticles consist of stable two-pair FRET donor/quencher RNA oligonucleotides used for in vivo miRNA inhibit…


Figure 4: Proliferation, migration and survival of cancer cells as a function of RNA-triple-helix nanoparticles treatment.close

Proliferation, migration and survival of cancer cells as a function of RNA-triple-helix nanoparticles treatment.

a, miR-205 and miR-221 expression in breast cancer cells at 24, 48 and 72h of incubation (n = 3, statistical analysis performed with a two-tailed Students t-test, , P < 0.01). miRNA levels were normalized to the RNU6B reference gene


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  2. Li, Z. & Rana, T. M. Therapeutic targeting of microRNAs: Current status and future challenges. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 13, 622638 (2014).
  3. Yin, H. et al. Non-viral vectors for gene-based therapy. Nature Rev. Genet. 15, 541555(2014).
  4. Conde, J., Edelman, E. R. & Artzi, N. Target-responsive DNA/RNA nanomaterials for microRNA sensing and inhibition: The jack-of-all-trades in cancer nanotheranostics? Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev. 81, 169183 (2015).
  5. Chen, Y. C., Gao, D. Y. & Huang, L. In vivo delivery of miRNAs for cancer therapy: Challenges and strategies. Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev. 81, 128141 (2015).
  6. Yin, P. T., Shah, B. P. & Lee, K. B. Combined magnetic nanoparticle-based microRNA and hyperthermia therapy to enhance apoptosis in brain cancer cells. Small 10, 41064112(2014).
  7. Hao, L. L., Patel, P. C., Alhasan, A. H., Giljohann, D. A. & Mirkin, C. A. Nucleic acid–gold nanoparticle conjugates as mimics of microRNA. Small 7, 31583162 (2011).
  8. Endo-Takahashi, Y. et al. Systemic delivery of miR-126 by miRNA-loaded bubble liposomes for the treatment of hindlimb ischemia. Sci. Rep. 4, 3883 (2014).
  9. Chen, Y. C., Zhu, X. D., Zhang, X. J., Liu, B. & Huang, L. Nanoparticles modified with tumor-targeting scFv deliver siRNA and miRNA for cancer therapy. Mol. Ther. 18, 16501656(2010).
  10. Anand, S. et al. MicroRNA-132-mediated loss of p120RasGAP activates the endothelium to facilitate pathological angiogenesis. Nature Med. 16, 909914 (2010).


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