Sticky Patches on Lipid Nanoparticles Enable the Selective Targeting and Killing of Untargetable Cancer Cells

Michelle Sempkowski, Charles Zhu, Monica Zofia Menzenski, Ioannis G. Kevrekidis, Frank Bruchertseifer, Alfred Morgenstern, Stavroula Sofou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Effective targeting by uniformly functionalized nanoparticles is limited to cancer cells expressing at least two copies of targeted receptors per nanoparticle footprint (approximately ≥2 × 105 receptor copies per cell); such a receptor density supports the required multivalent interaction between the neighboring receptors and the ligands from a single nanoparticle. To enable selective targeting below this receptor density, ligands on the surface of lipid vesicles were displayed in clusters that were designed to form at the acidic pH of the tumor interstitium. Vesicles with clustered HER2-targeting peptides within such sticky patches (sticky vesicles) were compared to uniformly functionalized vesicles. On HER2-negative breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231 and MCF7 {expressing (8.3 ± 0.8) × 104 and (5.4 ± 0.9) × 104 HER2 copies per cell, respectively}, only the sticky vesicles exhibited detectable specific targeting (KD ≈ 49-69 nM); dissociation (0.005-0.009 min-1) and endocytosis rates (0.024-0.026 min-1) were independent of HER2 expression for these cells. MDA-MB-231 and MCF7 were killed only by sticky vesicles encapsulating doxorubicin (32-40% viability) or α-particle emitter 225Ac (39-58% viability) and were not affected by uniformly functionalized vesicles (>80% viability). Toxicities on cardiomyocytes and normal breast cells (expressing HER2 at considerably lower but not insignificant levels) were not observed, suggesting the potential of tunable clustered ligand display for the selective killing of cancer cells with low receptor densities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8329-8338
Number of pages10
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 23 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • General Materials Science
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Electrochemistry


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