Effect of removing Kupffer cells on nanoparticle tumor delivery

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Dec 19;114(51):E10871-E10880. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713390114. Epub 2017 Dec 5.


A recent metaanalysis shows that 0.7% of nanoparticles are delivered to solid tumors. This low delivery efficiency has major implications in the translation of cancer nanomedicines, as most of the nanomedicines are sequestered by nontumor cells. To improve the delivery efficiency, there is a need to investigate the quantitative contribution of each organ in blocking the transport of nanoparticles to solid tumors. Here, we hypothesize that the removal of the liver macrophages, cells that have been reported to take up the largest amount of circulating nanoparticles, would lead to a significant increase in the nanoparticle delivery efficiency to solid tumors. We were surprised to discover that the maximum achievable delivery efficiency was only 2%. In our analysis, there was a clear correlation between particle design, chemical composition, macrophage depletion, tumor pathophysiology, and tumor delivery efficiency. In many cases, we observed an 18-150 times greater delivery efficiency, but we were not able to achieve a delivery efficiency higher than 2%. The results suggest the need to look deeper at other organs such as the spleen, lymph nodes, and tumor in mediating the delivery process. Systematically mapping the contribution of each organ quantitatively will allow us to pinpoint the cause of the low tumor delivery efficiency. This, in effect, enables the generation of a rational strategy to improve the delivery efficiency of nanoparticles to solid tumors either through the engineering of multifunctional nanosystems or through manipulation of biological barriers.

Keywords: cancer; liver; macrophage; nanoparticle; tumor delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Gold
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Kupffer Cells / metabolism*
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Macrophages
  • Metal Nanoparticles
  • Mice
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Phagocytes / metabolism
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Gold