Development of "on-demand" thermo-responsive hydrogels for anti-cancer drugs sustained release: Rational design, in silico prediction and in vitro validation in colon cancer models

Mater Sci Eng C Mater Biol Appl. 2021 Dec;131:112483. doi: 10.1016/j.msec.2021.112483. Epub 2021 Oct 13.


A rational design accurate based on the use of Statistical Design of the Experiments (DoE) and Molecular Dynamics Simulations Studies allows the prediction and the understanding of thermo-responsive hydrogels prepared regarding their gelation temperature and anti-cancer drug release rate. N-isopropylacrilamide (NIPAM) modified with specific co-monomers and crosslinkers, can be used to prepare "on-demand" thermo-responsive hydrogels with the ideal properties for clinical applications in which local sustained release of drugs is crucial. Two preferential formulations resulting from the predictive studies of DoE and In Silico methods were synthesized by radical polymerization, fully characterized, and loaded with the anticancer drug Doxorubicin (Dox). The hydrogel formulations were characterized by swelling rate, turbidity, FTIR, 1H NMR, SEM, gelation time, rheology, and biocompatibility assays. Both formulations demonstrated adequate morphologic, rheological, and biocompatibility properties; however, important differences in terms of drug retention were detected. As demonstrated by a Dox cumulative release study and posteriorly confirmed by an efficacy assay in an in vitro colorectal cancer model, the formulation composed by NIPAM and 4-penten-1-ol crosslinked with poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) (PNiPenPH) present a slow release over the time, presenting ideal properties to become and ideal depot system for the local sustained release of anticancer drugs as adjuvant therapy or in the case of non-resectable tumors.

Keywords: Cancer treatment; Molecular dynamics simulations; Rheology; Statistical Design of Experiments; Sustained release; Thermo-responsive hydrogels.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Colonic Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology
  • Drug Liberation
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Temperature


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Hydrogels
  • Doxorubicin