Improving the anticancer effect of afatinib and microRNA by using lipid polymeric nanoparticles conjugated with dual pH-responsive and targeting peptides

Shu Ting Hong, Huaching Lin, Chen Shen Wang, Chih Hsien Chang, Anya Maan Yuh Lin, James Chih Hsin Yang, Yu Li Lo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: The emergence of resistance to chemotherapy or target therapy, tumor metastasis, and systemic toxicity caused by available anticancer drugs hamper the successful colorectal cancer (CRC) treatment. The rise in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR; human epidermal growth factor receptor 1; HER1) expression and enhanced phosphorylation of HER2 and HER3 are associated with tumor resistance, metastasis and invasion, thus resulting in poor outcome of anti-CRC therapy. The use of afatinib, a pan-HER inhibitor, is a potential therapeutic approach for resistant CRC. Additionally, miR-139 has been reported to be negatively correlated with chemoresistance, metastasis, and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of CRC. Hence, we develop a nanoparticle formulation consisting of a polymer core to carry afatinib or miR-139, which is surrounded by lipids modified with a targeting ligand and a pH-sensitive penetrating peptide to improve the anticancer effect of cargos against CRC cells. Results: Our findings show that this formulation displays a spherical shape with core/shell structure, homogeneous particle size distribution and negative zeta potential. The prepared formulations demonstrate a pH-sensitive release profile and an enhanced uptake of cargos into human colorectal adenocarcinoma Caco-2 cells in response to the acidic pH. This nanoparticle formulation incorporating afatinib and miR-139 exhibits low toxicity to normal cells but shows a better inhibitory effect on Caco-2 cells than other formulations. Moreover, the encapsulation of afatinib and miR-139 in peptide-modified nanoparticles remarkably induces apoptosis and inhibits migration and resistance of Caco-2 cells via suppression of pan-HER tyrosine kinase/multidrug resistance/metastasis pathways. Conclusion: This study proposes a multifunctional nanoparticle formulation for targeted modulation of apoptosis/EGFR/HER/EMT/resistance/progression pathways to increase the sensitivity of colon cancer cells to afatinib.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
JournalJournal of Nanobiotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 19 Aug 2019


  • Afatinib
  • Cell-penetrating peptides
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)
  • Nanoparticles
  • Targeting delivery


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