Transcription factor STAT3 has been shown to regulate genes that are involved in stem cell self-renewal and thus represents a novel therapeutic target of great biological significance. However, many small-molecule agents with potential effects through STAT3 modulation in cancer therapy lack aqueous solubility and high off-target toxicity, hence impeding efficient bioavailability and activity. This work, for the first time, reports a prodrug-based strategy for selective and safer delivery of STAT3 inhibitors designed toward metastatic and drug-resistant breast cancer. We have synthesized a novel lipase-labile SN-2 phospholipid prodrug from a clinically investigated STAT3 inhibitor, nifuroxazide (Pro-nifuroxazide), which can be regioselectively cleaved by the membrane-abundant enzymes in cancer cells. Pro-nifuroxazide self-assembled to sub 20 nm nanoparticles (NPs), and the cytotoxic ability was screened in ER(+)-MCF-7 and ER(-)-MD-MB231 cells at 48-72 h using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetra-zolium bromide proliferation assay. Results indicated that Pro-nifuroxazide NPs are multifold more effective toward inhibiting cancer cells in a time-dependent manner compared to parent nifuroxazide. A remarkable improvement in the local concentration of drugs to as high as ∼240 fold when assembled into NPs is presumably the reason for this functional improvement. We also introduced molecular dynamics simulations to generate Pro-nifuroxazide nano-assembly, as a model assembly from triggerable anti-cancer drugs, to provide molecular insights correlating physicochemical and anti-cancer properties. In silico properties of Pro-nifuroxazide including size, chemistry of NPs and membrane interactions with individual molecules could be validated by in vitro functional activities in cells of breast cancer origin. The in vivo anti-cancer efficiencies of Pro-nifuroxazide NPs in nude mice xenografts with MCF-7 revealed remarkable growth inhibition of as high as 400%. Histopathological analysis corroborated these findings to show significantly high nuclear fragmentation and retracted cytoplasm. Immunostaining on tumor section demonstrated a significantly lower level of pSTAT-3 by Pro-nifuroxazide NP treatment, establishing the inhibition of STAT-3 phosphorylation. Our strategy for the first time proposes a translatable prodrug agent self-assembled into NPs and demonstrates remarkable enhancement in IC50, induced apoptosis, and reduced cancer cell population through STAT-3 inhibition via reduced phosphorylation.
- cancer therapy
- dissipative particle dynamics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)