Targeting Drug / Agent Delivery to Hypoxic Regions of Tumors (RFT-485)

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Scientists working at North Dakota State University have developed a method to deliver drugs to the hypoxic regions of tumors, which are otherwise difficult to reach and treat. This is accomplished by modifying liposomes or polymersomes in two ways. First, peptides (such as cyclic iRGD) or other compounds that target hypoxic regions are conjugated to the drug carriers, resulting in their concentration in hypoxic tumor regions. Second, the liposomes or polymersomes are further modified using NDSU’s proprietary linkers, which prevent their opening except in hypoxic regions. As a result, this technology enables more options for treating and imaging solid tumors with lowered side effects associated with chemotherapy. Optionally, polymersomes that deliver compounds to a tumor can simultaneously carry echogenic bubbles that enable ultrasound imaging to determine when and where they accumulate inside a tumor, and when they have broken open to release their contents (at which time the echogenic properties disappear). 


  • More stable in circulation so reduced side effects due to premature breakdown.
  • High concentration of anti-cancer drug in hypoxic tumor regions that are otherwise very
    difficult to treat using intravenous drug administration. This may enable administration
    of drugs that in the past haven’t been viable, and / or administering of lower dosages
    to achieve lessened side effects without reducing treatment effectiveness.
  • Verification of the successful tumor targeting using polymersomes. Standard
    ultrasound imaging techniques are used to visualize a white spot forming as
    polymersomes accumulate in hypoxic regions of a tumor, and this same white spot
    disappearing as the polymersomes break open, confirming first the accumulation in the
    hypoxic region and then release of polymersome contents.
  • Stability of polymersome echogenic characteristics under diagnostic ultrasound
    conditions. The polymersomes incorporate air bubbles, and protect them so their
    echogenic properties are significantly more stable than lipid-stabilized air bubbles.
    Ability to utilize air bubbles that are of nanometer size for ultrasound imaging, such
    bubbles then being suitable for transporting to tumor cells simultaneously with the antitumor
  • Imaging could also be used to identify non-specific accumulation of polymersomes in
    non-target tissues. 


Simultaneous imaging and delivery of cargo to hypoxic regions of tumor cells


This technology is patent pending with worldwide PCT patent rights and is available for licensing/partnering opportunities.


Henry Nowak, Technology Manager

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