Liposomal formulations of anticancer copper(II) thiosemicarbazone complexes

Dalton Trans. 2021 Nov 16;50(44):16053-16066. doi: 10.1039/d1dt02763h.


α-N-Heterocyclic thiosemicarbazones such as triapine and COTI-2 are currently investigated as anticancer therapeutics in clinical trials. However, triapine was widely inactive against solid tumor types. A likely explanation is the short plasma half-life time and fast metabolism. One promising approach to overcome these drawbacks is the encapsulation of the drug into nanoparticles (passive drug-targeting). In a previous work we showed that it was not possible to stably encapsulate free triapine into liposomes. Hence, in this manuscript we present the successful preparation of liposomal formulations of the copper(II) complexes of triapine and COTI-2. To this end, various drug-loading strategies were examined and the resulting liposomes were physico-chemically characterized. Especially for liposomal Cu-triapine, a decent encapsulation efficacy and a slow drug release behavior could be observed. In contrast, for COTI-2 and its copper(II) complex no stable loading could be achieved. Subsequent in vitro studies in different cell lines with liposomal Cu-triapine showed the expected strongly reduced cytotoxicity and DNA damage induction. Also in vivo distinctly higher copper plasma levels and a continuous release could be observed for the liposomal formulation compared to free Cu-triapine. Taken together, the here presented nanoformulation of Cu-triapine is an important step further to increase the plasma half-life time and tumor targeting properties of anticancer thiosemicarbazones.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacokinetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Coordination Complexes* / administration & dosage
  • Coordination Complexes* / chemistry
  • Coordination Complexes* / pharmacokinetics
  • Copper* / administration & dosage
  • Copper* / chemistry
  • Copper* / pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Liberation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liposomes
  • Methemoglobin / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Thiosemicarbazones* / administration & dosage
  • Thiosemicarbazones* / chemistry
  • Thiosemicarbazones* / pharmacokinetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Coordination Complexes
  • Liposomes
  • Thiosemicarbazones
  • Copper
  • Methemoglobin