Biodistribution and delivery efficiency of unmodified tumor-derived exosomes

J Control Release. 2015 Feb 10;199:145-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2014.12.013. Epub 2014 Dec 16.


The use of exosomes as a drug delivery vehicle has gained considerable interest. To establish if exosomes could be utilized effectively for drug delivery, a better understanding of their in vivo fate must be established. Through comparisons to liposomal formulations, which have been studied extensively for the last thirty years, we were able to make some comprehensive conclusions about the fate of unmodified tumor-derived exosomes in vivo. We observed a comparable rapid clearance and minimal tumor accumulation of intravenously-injected exosomes, PC:Chol liposomes, and liposomes formulated with the lipid extract of exosomes, suggesting that the unique protein and lipid composition of exosomes does not appreciably impact exosomes' rate of clearance and biodistribution. This rapid clearance along with minimal tumor accumulation of unmodified exosomes limits their use as an anti-cancer drug delivery vehicle; however, when delivered intratumorally, exosomes remained associated with tumor tissue to a significantly greater extent than PC:Chol liposomes. Furthermore, experiments utilizing mice with impaired adaptive or innate immune systems, revealed the significance of the innate immune system along with the complement protein C5 on exosomes' rate of clearance.

Keywords: Biodistribution; Exosomes; Intratumoral injection; Intravenous injection; Liposomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cell Line
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Choline
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Exosomes / chemistry
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Liposomes / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Particle Size
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Liposomes
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Doxorubicin
  • Choline