Self-Healing pH- and Enzyme Stimuli-Responsive Hydrogels for Targeted Delivery of Gemcitabine to Treat Pancreatic Cancer

Panayiotis Bilalis, Dimitrios Skoulas, Anastasios Karatzas, John Marakis, Athanasios Stamogiannos, Chrisida Tsimblouli, Evangelia Sereti, Efstratios Stratikos, Konstantinos Dimas, Dimitris Vlassopoulos, Hermis Iatrou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


A novel, multifunctional hydrogel that exhibits a unique set of properties for the effective treatment of pancreatic cancer (PC) is presented. The material is composed of a pentablock terpolypeptide of the type PLys-b-(PHIS-co-PBLG)-PLys-b-(PHIS-co-PBLG)-b-PLys, which is a noncytotoxic polypeptide. It can be implanted via the least invasive route and selectively delivers gemcitabine to efficiently treat PC. Simply mixing the novel terpolypeptide with an aqueous solution of gemcitabine within a syringe results in the facile formation of a hydrogel that has the ability to become liquid under the shear rate of the plunger. Upon injection in the vicinity of cancer tissue, it immediately reforms into a hydrogel due to the unique combination of its macromolecular architecture and secondary structure. Because of its pH responsiveness, the hydrogel only melts close to PC; thus, the drug can be delivered directionally toward the cancerous rather than healthy tissues in a targeted, controlled, and sustained manner. The efficacy of the hydrogel was tested in vivo on human to mouse xenografts using the drug gemcitabine. It was found that the efficacy of the hydrogel loaded with only 40% of the drug delivered in one dose was equal to or slightly better than the peritumoral injection of 100% of the free drug delivered in two doses, the typical chemotherapy used in clinics so far. This result suggests that the hydrogel can direct the delivery of the encapsulated drug effectively in the tumor tissue. Enzymes lead to its biodegradation, avoiding removal by resection of the polypeptidic carrier after cargo delivery. The unique properties of the hydrogel formed can be predetermined through its molecular characteristics, rendering it a promising modular material for many biological applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3840-3852
Number of pages13
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 10 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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