Investigation into the role of tumor-associated macrophages in the antitumor activity of Doxil

Pharm Res. 2008 Aug;25(8):1948-55. doi: 10.1007/s11095-008-9629-9. Epub 2008 Jun 4.


Purpose: Our recent studies show specific localization of long-circulating liposomes (LCL) within the endosomal/lysosomal compartment of tumor-associated macrophages (TAM). Based on this finding, the present study aims to investigate whether clinically applied LCL formulations such as Doxil (LCL-encapsulated doxorubicin), have alternative mechanisms of action additionally to direct drug-mediated cytotoxicity towards tumor cells.

Methods: The antitumor activity of Doxil was evaluated in B16.F10 melanoma-bearing mice, in the presence and in the absence of TAM. To suppress TAM functions, liposomal clodronate (Lip-CLOD) was injected 24 h before the actual treatment. The effect of Doxil on the levels of angiogenic factors was determined using an angiogenic protein array. As positive control, the same experiments were conducted with LCL-encapsulated prednisolone phosphate (LCL-PLP), a tumor-targeted formulation with known strong anti-angiogenic/anti-inflammatory effects on TAM.

Results: Our results show that the antitumor efficacy of Doxil was only partially attributed to the inhibition of TAM-mediated angiogenesis whereas LCL-PLP inhibited tumor growth through strong suppressive effects on pro-angiogenic functions of TAM. As described previously, the main mechanism of Doxil might be a cytotoxic effect on tumor cells.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the antitumor activity of Doxil does not depend mainly on the presence of functional TAM in tumors.

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Angiogenic Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Clodronic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Clodronic Acid / pharmacology
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Carriers
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Liposomes
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Angiogenic Proteins
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drug Carriers
  • Liposomes
  • Clodronic Acid
  • Doxorubicin