The selectivity of anticancer drugs in targeting the tumour tissue presents a major problem in cancer treatment. In this article we review a new generation of smart liposomal nanocarriers that can be used for enhanced anticancer drug and prodrug delivery to tumours. The liposomes are engineered to be particularly degradable to secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2), which is a lipid hydrolyzing enzyme that is significantly upregulated in the extracellular microenvironment of cancer tumours. Thus, when the long circulatory liposomal nanocarriers extravasate and accumulate in the interstitial tumour space, sPLA2 will act as an active trigger resulting in the release of cytotoxic drugs in close vicinity of the target cancer cells. The sPLA2 generated lysolipid and fatty acid hydrolysis products will furthermore be locally released and function as membrane permeability promoters facilitating the intracellular drug uptake. In addition, the liposomal membrane can be composed of a novel class of prodrug lipids that can be converted selectively to active anticancer agents by sPLA2 in the tumour. The integrated drug discovery and delivery technology offers a promising way to rationally design novel tumour activated liposomal nanocarriers for better cancer treatment.
Keywords: liposomes, drug carrier, triggered drug release, drug targeting, lipid synthesis, prodrug lipids, secretory phospholipase a, enzyme membrane interaction, calorimetry, fluorescence
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