Polymeric micelles and nanoemulsions as tumor-targeted drug carriers: Insight through intravital imaging

Natalya Rapoport, Roohi Gupta, Yoo Shin Kim, Brian E. O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Intravital imaging of nanoparticle extravasation and tumor accumulation has revealed, for the first time, detailed features of carrier and drug behavior in circulation and tissue that suggest new directions for optimization of drug nanocarriers. Using intravital fluorescent microscopy, the extent of the extravasation, diffusion in the tissue, internalization by tissue cells, and uptake by the RES system were studied for polymeric micelles, nanoemulsions, and nanoemulsion-encapsulated drug. Discrimination of vascular and tissue compartments in the processes of micelle and nanodroplet extravasation and tissue accumulation was possible. A simple 1-D continuum model was suggested that allowed discriminating between various kinetic regimes of nanocarrier (or released drug) internalization in tumors of various sizes and cell density. The extravasation and tumor cell internalization occurred much faster for polymeric micelles than for nanoemulsion droplets. Fast micelle internalization resulted in the formation of a perivascular fluorescent coating around blood vessels. A new mechanism of micelle extravasation and internalization was suggested, based on the fast extravasation and internalization rates of copolymer unimers while maintaining micelle/unimer equilibrium in the circulation. The data suggested that to be therapeutically effective, nanoparticles with high internalization rate should manifest fast diffusion in the tumor tissue in order to avoid generation of concentration gradients that induce drug resistance. However an extra-fast diffusion should be avoided as it may result in the flow of extravasated nanoparticles from the tumor to normal organs, which would compromise targeting efficiency. The extravasation kinetics were different for nanodroplets and nanodroplet-encapsulated drug F-PTX suggesting a premature release of some fraction of the drug from the carrier. In conclusion, the development of an "ideal" drug carrier should involve the optimization of both drug retention and carrier diffusion parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-160
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
StatePublished - May 28 2015


  • Drug delivery
  • Intravital microscopy
  • Micelles
  • Nanodroplets
  • Nanoparticle diffusion
  • Nanoparticle extravasation
  • Paclitaxel
  • Perfluorocarbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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