Research Papers:

Brain- and brain tumor-penetrating disulfiram nanoparticles: Sequence of cytotoxic events and efficacy in human glioma cell lines and intracranial xenografts

Hanumantha Rao Madala, Surendra R. Punganuru, Francis Ali-Osman, Ruiwen Zhang and Kalkunte S. Srivenugopal _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:3459-3482. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23320

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Hanumantha Rao Madala1, Surendra R. Punganuru1, Francis Ali-Osman2, Ruiwen Zhang3 and Kalkunte S. Srivenugopal1

1Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Amarillo, TX, USA

2Department of Surgery and the Brain Tumor Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

3Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA

Correspondence to:

Kalkunte S. Srivenugopal, email: [email protected]

Keywords: disulfiram; MGMT; glioma; chemotherapy; nanoparticles

Received: September 12, 2017     Accepted: November 26, 2017     Published: December 15, 2017


There is great interest in repurposing disulfiram (DSF), a rapidly metabolizing nontoxic drug, for brain cancers and other cancers. To overcome the instability and low therapeutic efficacy, we engineered passively-targeted DSF-nanoparticles (DSFNPs) using biodegradable monomethoxy (polyethylene glycol) d,l-lactic-co-glycolic acid (mPEG-PLGA) matrix. The physicochemical properties, cellular uptake and the blood brain-barrier permeability of DSFNPs were investigated. The DSFNPs were highly stable with a size of ~70 nm with a >90% entrapment. Injection of the nanoparticles labeled with HITC, a near-infrared dye into normal mice and tumor-bearing nude mice followed by in vivo imaging showed a selective accumulation of the formulation within the brain and subcutaneous tumors for >24 h, indicating an increased plasma half-life and entry of DSF into desired sites. The DSFNPs induced a potent and preferential killing of many brain tumor cell lines in cytotoxicity assays. Confocal microscopy showed a quick internalization of the nanoparticles in tumor cells followed by initial accumulation in lysosomes and subsequently in mitochondria. DSFNPs induced high levels of ROS and led to a marked loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. Activation of the MAP-kinase pathway leading to a nuclear translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor and altered expression of apoptotic and anti-apoptotic proteins were also observed. DSFNPs induced a powerful and significant regression of intracranial medulloblastoma xenografts compared to the marginal efficacy of unencapsulated DSF. Together, we show that passively targeted DSFNPs can affect multiple targets, trigger potent anticancer effects, and can offer a sustained drug supply for brain cancer treatment through an enhanced permeability retention (EPR).

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