Solid tumor treatment via augmentation of bioactive C6 ceramide levels with thermally ablative focused ultrasound

Drug Deliv Transl Res. 2023 Dec;13(12):3145-3153. doi: 10.1007/s13346-023-01377-w. Epub 2023 Jun 19.


Sparse scan partial thermal ablation (TA) with focused ultrasound (FUS) may be deployed to treat solid tumors and increase delivery of systemically administered therapeutics. Furthermore, C6-ceramide-loaded nanoliposomes (CNLs), which rely upon the enhanced-permeation and retention (EPR) effect for delivery, have shown promise for treating solid tumors and are being tested in clinical trials. Here, our objective was to determine whether CNLs synergize with TA in the control of 4T1 breast tumors. CNL monotherapy of 4T1 tumors yielded significant intratumoral bioactive C6 accumulation by the EPR effect, but tumor growth was not controlled. TA increased bioactive C6 accumulation by ~ 12.5-fold over the EPR effect. In addition, TA + CNL caused shifts in long-chain to very-long-chain ceramide ratios (i.e., C16/24 and C18/C24) that could potentially contribute to tumor control. Nonetheless, these changes in intratumoral ceramide levels were still insufficient to confer tumor growth control beyond that achieved when combining with TA with control "ghost" nanoliposomes (GNL). While this lack of synergy could be due to increased "pro-tumor" sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) levels, this is unlikely because S1P levels exhibited only a moderate and statistically insignificant increase with TA + CNL. In vitro studies showed that 4T1 cells are highly resistant to C6, offering the most likely explanation for the inability of TA to synergize with CNL. Thus, while our results show that sparse scan TA is a powerful approach for markedly enhancing CNL delivery and generating "anti-tumor" shifts in long-chain to very-long-chain ceramide ratios, resistance of the tumor to C6 can still be a rate-limiting factor for some solid tumor types.

Keywords: Ceramide; Focused ultrasound; Nanoliposomes; Thermal ablation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Ceramides* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Sphingosine


  • N-caproylsphingosine
  • Ceramides
  • sphingosine 1-phosphate
  • Sphingosine