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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Killing cancer cells by targeted drug-carrying phage nanomedicines

Hagit Bar12, Iftach Yacoby1 and Itai Benhar1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978, Israel

2 Department of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel

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BMC Biotechnology 2008, 8:37  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-8-37

Published: 3 April 2008

Abstract

Background

Systemic administration of chemotherapeutic agents, in addition to its anti-tumor benefits, results in indiscriminate drug distribution and severe toxicity. This shortcoming may be overcome by targeted drug-carrying platforms that ferry the drug to the tumor site while limiting exposure to non-target tissues and organs.

Results

We present a new form of targeted anti-cancer therapy in the form of targeted drug-carrying phage nanoparticles. Our approach is based on genetically-modified and chemically manipulated filamentous bacteriophages. The genetic manipulation endows the phages with the ability to display a host-specificity-conferring ligand. The phages are loaded with a large payload of a cytotoxic drug by chemical conjugation. In the presented examples we used anti ErbB2 and anti ERGR antibodies as targeting moieties, the drug hygromycin conjugated to the phages by a covalent amide bond, or the drug doxorubicin conjugated to genetically-engineered cathepsin-B sites on the phage coat. We show that targeting of phage nanomedicines via specific antibodies to receptors on cancer cell membranes results in endocytosis, intracellular degradation, and drug release, resulting in growth inhibition of the target cells in vitro with a potentiation factor of >1000 over the corresponding free drugs.

Conclusion

The results of the proof-of concept study presented here reveal important features regarding the potential of filamentous phages to serve as drug-delivery platform, on the affect of drug solubility or hydrophobicity on the target specificity of the platform and on the effect of drug release mechanism on the potency of the platform. These results define targeted drug-carrying filamentous phage nanoparticles as a unique type of antibody-drug conjugates.