Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) as an activator of nanosystems for targeted drug delivery in pancreatic cancer

Barbara Grünwald, Jennifer Vandooren, Erica Locatelli, Pierre Fiten, Ghislain Opdenakker, Paul Proost, Achim Krüger, Jean Paul Lellouche, Louis Shenkman, Mauro Comes Franchini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Specific cancer cell targeting is a pre-requisite for efficient drug delivery as well as for high-resolution imaging and still represents a major technical challenge. Tumor-associated enzyme-assisted targeting is a new concept that takes advantage of the presence of a specific activity in the tumor entity. MMP-9 is a protease found to be upregulated in virtually all malignant tumors. Consequently, we hypothesized that its presence can provide a de-shielding activity for targeted delivery of drugs by nanoparticles (NPs) in pancreatic cancer. Here, we describe synthesis and characterization of an optimized MMP-9-cleavable linker mediating specific removal of a PEG shield from a PLGA-b-PEG-based polymeric nanocarrier (Magh@PNPs-PEG-RegaCP-PEG) leading to specific uptake of the smaller PNPs with their cargo into cells. The specific MMP-9-cleavable linker was designed based on the degradation efficiency of peptides derived from the collagen type II sequence. MMP-9-dependent uptake of the Magh@PNPs-PEG-RegaCP-PEG was demonstrated in pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. Accumulation of the Magh@PNPs-PEG-RegaCP-PEG in pancreatic tissues in the clinically relevant KPC mouse model of pancreatic cancer, as a proof-of-concept, was tumor-specific and MMP-9-dependent, indicating that MMP-9 has a strong potential as a specific mediator of PNP de-shielding for tumor-specific uptake. Pre-treatment of mice with Magh@PNPs-PEG-RegaCP-PEG led to reduction of liver metastasis and drastically decreased average colony size. In conclusion, the increased tumor-specific presence and activity of MMP-9 can be exploited to deliver an MMP-9-activatable NP to pancreatic tumors specifically, effectively, and safely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-48
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
StatePublished - 10 Oct 2016


  • Drug delivery
  • MMP-9
  • Nanoparticles
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Targeting

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmaceutical Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) as an activator of nanosystems for targeted drug delivery in pancreatic cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this