Targeting the oncogene kras mutant pancreatic cancer by synergistic blocking of lysosomal acidification and rapid drug release

Chao Kong, Yang Li, Zhengsheng Liu, Junxiao Ye, Zhaohui Wang, Ling Zhang, Weijian Kong, Huiqin Liu, Chun Liu, Huanhuan Pang, Zeping Hu, Jinming Gao, Feng Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Survival of KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer is critically dependent on reprogrammed metabolism including elevated macropinocytosis, autophagy, and lysosomal degradation of proteins. Lysosomal acidification is indispensable to protein catabolism, which makes it an exploitable metabolic target for KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer. Herein we investigated ultra-pH-sensitive micelles (UPSM) with pH-specific buffering of organelle pH and rapid drug release as a promising therapy against pancreatic cancer. UPSM undergo micelle-unimer phase transition at their apparent pK a , with dramatically increased buffer capacity in a narrow pH range (<0.3 pH). Cell studies including amino acid profiling showed that UPSM inhibited lysosomal catabolism more efficiently than conventional lysosomotropic agents (e.g., chloroquine) and induced cell apoptosis under starved condition. Moreover, pH-triggered rapid drug release from triptolide prodrug-loaded UPSM (T-UPSM) significantly enhanced cytotoxicity over non-pH-sensitive micelles (T-NPSM). Importantly, T-UPSM demonstrated superior safety and antitumor efficacy over triptolide and T-NPSM in KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer mouse models. Our findings suggest that the ultra-pH-sensitive nanoparticles are a promising therapeutic platform to treat KRAS mutant pancreatic cancer through simultaneous lysosomal pH buffering and rapid drug release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4049-4063
Number of pages15
JournalACS Nano
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 23 2019


  • drug delivery
  • lysosomal buffering
  • mutant KRAS
  • pancreatic cancer
  • ultra-pH-sensitive micelles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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