Sunitinib-Loaded Chondroitin Sulfate Hydrogels as a Novel Drug-Delivery Mechanism for the Treatment of Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

Ann Surg Oncol. 2021 Dec;28(13):8532-8543. doi: 10.1245/s10434-021-10245-1. Epub 2021 Jun 5.


Background: Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs) are increasingly common. Experts debate whether small tumors should be resected. Tumor destruction via injection of cytotoxic agents could offer a minimal invasive approach to this controversy. We hypothesize that a new drug delivery system comprising chondroitin sulfate (CS) hydrogels loaded with sunitinib (SUN) suppresses tumor growth in PanNET cells.

Methods: Injectable hydrogels composed of CS modified with methacrylate groups (MA) were fabricated and loaded with SUN. Loading target was either 200 µg (SUN200-G) or 500 µg (SUN500-G) as well as sham hydrogel with no drug loading (SUN0-G). SUN release from hydrogels was monitored in vitro over time and cytotoxicity induced by the released SUN was evaluated using QGP-1 and BON1 PanNET cell lines. QGP-1 xenografts were developed in 35 mice and directly injected with 25 µL of either SUN200-G, SUN500-G, SUN0-G, 100 µL of Sunitinib Malate (SUN-inj), or given 40 mg/kg/day oral sunitinib (SUN-oral).

Results: SUN-loaded CSMA hydrogel retained complete in vitro cytotoxicity toward the QGP-1 PanNET and BON-1 PanNET cell lines for 21 days. Mouse xenograft models with QGP-1 PanNETs showed a significant delay in tumor growth in the SUN200/500-G, SUN-inj and SUN-oral groups compared with SUN0-G (p = 0.0014). SUN500-G hydrogels induced significantly more tumor necrosis than SUN0-G (p = 0.04). There was no difference in tumor growth delay between SUN200/500G, SUN-inj, and SUN-oral.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that CSMA hydrogels loaded with SUN suppress PanNETs growth. This drug delivery could approach represents a novel way to treat PanNETs and other neoplasms via intratumoral injection.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / therapeutic use
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Hydrogels
  • Mice
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Sunitinib / therapeutic use


  • Hydrogels
  • Chondroitin Sulfates
  • Sunitinib