Redox-Responsive Core-Cross-Linked Block Copolymer Micelles for Overcoming Multidrug Resistance in Cancer Cells

Success of chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer has been often inhibited by multidrug resistance (MDR) of the cancer cells. There is a clear need to generate strategies to overcome this resistance. In this work, we have developed redox-responsive and core-cross-linked micellar nanocarriers using poly­(ethylene glycol)-<i>block</i>-poly­(2-(methacryloyloxy)­ethyl 5-(1,2-dithiolan-3-yl)­pentanoate) diblock copolymers (PEG-<i>b</i>-PLAHEMA) with tunable swelling properties for the delivery of drugs toward drug-sensitive MDA-MB-231 and drug-resistant MDA-MB-231 (231R) cancer cells. PEG-<i>b</i>-PLAHEMA containing varying number of 2-(methacryloyloxy)­ethyl 5-(1,2-dithiolan-3-yl)­pentanoate (LAHEMA) units were synthesized by employing the reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization technique. The block copolymer self-assembly, cross-linking induced by reduction, and de-cross-linking triggered time-dependent controlled swelling of micelles were studied using dynamic light scattering, fluorescence spectroscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. In vitro cytotoxicity, cellular uptake efficiency, and glutathione-responsive anticancer activity of doxorubicin (DOX) encapsulated in core-cross-linked block copolymer micelles (CCMs) toward both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant cancer cell lines were evaluated. Significant reduction in IC<sub>50</sub> was observed by DOX-loaded CCMs toward drug-resistant 231R cancer cell lines, which was further improved by coencapsulating DOX and verapamil (a P-glycoprotein inhibitor) in CCMs. Thus, these reduction-sensitive biocompatible CCMs with tunable swelling property are very promising in overcoming MDR in cancer cells.