Research ArticleNanomedicine

Aurora kinase inhibitor nanoparticles target tumors with favorable therapeutic index in vivo

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Science Translational Medicine  10 Feb 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 325, pp. 325ra17
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad2355

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Accurin nanoparticles dutifully deliver drug

A class of drugs, called kinase inhibitors, could stop cancer in its tracks…if only these drugs could reach the tumors, stay for a while, and not be toxic. Hypothesizing that a nanoparticle formulation would solve the inhibitors’ woes, Ashton and colleagues investigated several different compositions of so-called Accurins—polymeric particles that encapsulate charged drugs through ion pairing. An Aurora B kinase, once formulated in Accurins, demonstrated a much-improved therapeutic index and preclinical efficacy compared with its parent molecule, when administered to rats and mice bearing human tumors. The Accurins allowed for sustained release of the drug over days, and did not have the same blood toxicity seen with the parent drug. A phase 1 trial is the next step for this nanomedicine, and additional preclinical studies will reveal whether such nanoformulations can improve the tolerability and efficacy of the broader class of molecularly targeted cancer therapeutics, including cell cycle inhibitors.


Efforts to apply nanotechnology in cancer have focused almost exclusively on the delivery of cytotoxic drugs to improve therapeutic index. There has been little consideration of molecularly targeted agents, in particular kinase inhibitors, which can also present considerable therapeutic index limitations. We describe the development of Accurin polymeric nanoparticles that encapsulate the clinical candidate AZD2811, an Aurora B kinase inhibitor, using an ion pairing approach. Accurins increase biodistribution to tumor sites and provide extended release of encapsulated drug payloads. AZD2811 nanoparticles containing pharmaceutically acceptable organic acids as ion pairing agents displayed continuous drug release for more than 1 week in vitro and a corresponding extended pharmacodynamic reduction of tumor phosphorylated histone H3 levels in vivo for up to 96 hours after a single administration. A specific AZD2811 nanoparticle formulation profile showed accumulation and retention in tumors with minimal impact on bone marrow pathology, and resulted in lower toxicity and increased efficacy in multiple tumor models at half the dose intensity of AZD1152, a water-soluble prodrug of AZD2811. These studies demonstrate that AZD2811 can be formulated in nanoparticles using ion pairing agents to give improved efficacy and tolerability in preclinical models with less frequent dosing. Accurins specifically, and nanotechnology in general, can increase the therapeutic index of molecularly targeted agents, including kinase inhibitors targeting cell cycle and oncogenic signal transduction pathways, which have to date proved toxic in humans.

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