Dendritic poly(ethylene glycol) bearing paclitaxel and alendronate for targeting bone neoplasms

Mol Pharm. 2011 Aug 1;8(4):1063-72. doi: 10.1021/mp2001445. Epub 2011 May 24.


Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) is the most popular polymer for protein conjugation, but its potential as carrier of low molecular weight drugs has been limited by the intrinsic low loading, owing to its chemical structure. In fact, only the two end chain groups of PEG can be modified and exploited for drug coupling. We have demonstrated that by synthesizing a dendrimer structure at the polymer end chains, it is possible to increase the drug payload and overcome this limitation. Furthermore, this approach can be improved by using heterobifunctional PEG. These polymers allow the precise linking of two different drugs, or a drug and a targeting agent, on the same polymeric chain. Heterobifunctional PEG-dendrimers have been obtained with defined chemical structures leading to their attractive use as drug delivery systems. In fact, they offer a double benefit; first, the possibility to choose the best drug/targeting agent ratio, and second, the separation of the two functions, activity and targeting, which are coupled at the opposite polymer end chains. In this study, we investigated the role of a PEG-dendrimer, H(2)N-PEG-dendrimer-(COOH)(4), as carrier for a combination of paclitaxel (PTX) and alendronate (ALN). PTX is a potent anticancer drug that is affected by severe side effects originating from both the drug itself and its solubilizing formulation, Cremophor EL. ALN is an aminobiphosphonate used for the treatment of osteoporosis and bone metastases as well as a bone-targeting moiety. The PTX-PEG-ALN conjugate was designed to exploit active targeting by the ALN molecule and passive targeting through the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. Our conjugate demonstrated a great binding affinity to the bone mineral hydroxyapatite in vitro and an IC(50) comparable to that of the free drugs combination in human adenocarcinoma of the prostate (PC3) cells. The PTX-PEG-ALN conjugate exhibited an improved pharmacokinetic profile compared with the free drugs owed to the marked increase in their half-life. In addition, PTX-PEG-ALN could be solubilized directly in physiological solutions without the need for Cremophor EL. The data presented in this manuscript encourage further investigations on the potential of PTX-PEG-ALN as treatment for cancer bone metastases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alendronate / chemistry*
  • Alendronate / pharmacokinetics
  • Alendronate / pharmacology*
  • Alendronate / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Bone Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dendrimers / chemistry*
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry
  • Female
  • Hemolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Molecular Structure
  • Paclitaxel / chemistry*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacokinetics
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology*
  • Paclitaxel / therapeutic use
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry*
  • Rats


  • Dendrimers
  • Drug Carriers
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Paclitaxel
  • Alendronate