Ultrastable and Biofunctionalizable Conjugated Polymer Nanoparticles with Encapsulated Iron for Ferroptosis Assisted Chemodynamic Therapy

Mol Pharm. 2019 Dec 2;16(12):4852-4866. doi: 10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.9b00737. Epub 2019 Nov 4.


We report the development of novel tumor-targeted conjugated polymer nanoparticles (CPNPs) carrying iron for chemodynamic therapy (CDT). Tumor cell killing proceeds through ferroptosis, a reactive oxygen species (ROS) mechanism that is not dependent on external activation by, for example, light, as is the case in photodynamic therapy (PDT). The ferroptosis mechanism is also not heavily reliant on oxygen availability and is, therefore, promising for the treatment of hypoxic tumors. In this work, we apply this development to the case study of melanoma, a difficult to treat cancer in advanced stages due to resistance to chemotherapy. The iron-carrying CPNPs reported here are targeted to endothelin-B receptors (EDNRB) through endothelin-3 surface moieties (EDN3-CPNPs). Our results show excellent targeting to tumor cells that overexpress EDNRB, specifically for melanoma and bladder tumor cells. In these cases, efficient cell killing, over 80% at higher doses, was found. Conversely, tumor cells not targeted by the EDN3-CPNPs show little effects of CDT, with tumor cell death under 20% in most cases. The outcomes of our work demonstrate that EDN3-CPNPs enable ferroptosis-assisted CDT and present a new therapeutic avenue for tumor treatment.

Keywords: CDT; EDN3; EDNRA; EDNRB; Fenton reaction; PCPDTBT; ROS; cell viability; chemodynamic therapy; conjugated polymer nanoparticles; endothelin-3; ferroptosis; iron; metastatic melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dynamic Light Scattering
  • Ferroptosis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning Transmission
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure
  • Photochemotherapy
  • Polymers / chemistry*
  • Polymers / pharmacology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Receptor, Endothelin B / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared


  • Polymers
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Receptor, Endothelin B
  • Iron