Polymeric nanofiber leveraged co-delivery of anti-stromal PAK1 inhibitor and paclitaxel enhances therapeutic effects in stroma-rich 3D spheroid models

Ahmed M.R.H. Mostafa, Ornela Petrai, André A. Poot, Jai Prakash*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The role of tumor stroma in solid tumors has been widely recognized in cancer progression, metastasis and chemoresistance. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a crucial role in matrix remodeling and promoting cancer cell stemness and resistance via reciprocal crosstalk. Residual tumor tissue after surgical removal as well as unresectable tumors face therapeutic challenges to achieve curable outcome. In this study, we propose to develop a dual delivery approach by combining p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1) inhibitor (FRAX597) to inhibit tumor stroma and chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel (PTX) to kill cancer cells using electrospun nanofibers. First, the role of the PAK1 pathway was established in CAF differentiation, migration and contraction using relevant in vitro models. Second, polycaprolactone polymer-based nanofibers were fabricated using a uniaxial electrospinning technique to incorporate FRAX597 and/or PTX, which showed a uniform texture and a prolonged release of both drugs for 16 days. To test nanofibers, stroma-rich 3D heterospheroid models were set up which showed high resistance to PTX nanofibers compared to stroma-free homospheroids. Interestingly, nanofibers containing PTX and FRAX597 showed strong anti-tumor effects on heterospheroids by reducing the growth and viability by > 90 % compared to either of single drug-loaded nanofibers. These effects were reflected by reduced intra-spheroidal expression levels of collagen 1 and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). Overall, this study provides a new therapeutic strategy to inhibit the tumor stroma using PAK1 inhibitor and thereby enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy using nanofibers as a local delivery system for unresectable or residual tumor. Use of 3D models to evaluate nanofibers highlights these models as advanced in vitro tools to study the effect of controlled release local drug delivery systems before animal studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124078
JournalInternational journal of pharmaceutics
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2024


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Cancer associated fibroblasts
  • Controlled release
  • Drug delivery
  • Electrospinning
  • Local delivery
  • Nanomedicine
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • 3D spheroids


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