Aptamer-armed nanostructures improve the chemotherapy outcome of triple-negative breast cancer

Quanyuan Wan, Zihua Zeng, Jianjun Qi, Zhenghu Chen, Xiaohui Liu, Youli Zu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer that is primarily treated using systemic chemotherapy due to the lack of a specific cell surface marker for drug delivery. Cancer cell-specific aptamer-mediated drug delivery is a promising targeted chemotherapy for marker-unknown cancers. Using a poorly differentiated carcinoma cell-specific DNA aptamer (PDGC21T), we formed a self-assembling circinate DNA nanoparticle (Apt21TNP) that binds triple-negative breast cancer cells. Using our previously designed pH-sensitive dendrimer-conjugated doxorubicin (DDOX) as the payload, we found that each nanoparticle loaded 30 doxorubicin molecules to form an Apt21TNP-DDOX nanomedicine that is stable in human plasma. Upon cell binding, Apt21TNP-DDOX is internalized by triple-negative breast cancer cells through the macropinocytosis pathway. Once inside cells, the low pH microenvironment in lysosomes induces doxorubicin drug payload release from Apt21TNP-DDOX. Our in vitro studies demonstrate that Apt21TNP-DDOX can preferentially bind triple-negative breast cancer cells to induce cell death. Furthermore, we show that Apt21TNP-DDOX can accumulate in subcutaneous MDA-MB-231 tumors in mice following systemic administration to reduce tumor burden, minimize side effects, and improve animal survival. Together, our results demonstrate that Apt21TNP-mediated doxorubicin delivery is a potent, targeted chemotherapy for triple-negative breast cancer that may alleviate side effects in patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2242-2256
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • DNA nanoparticle
  • aptamer
  • doxorubicin
  • nanomedicine
  • targeted drug delivery
  • Humans
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Nanostructures
  • Doxorubicin
  • Animals
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Nanoparticles/chemistry
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology


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