The anticancer efficacy of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-based therapy is limited because of systemic toxicity, poor bioavailability, and development of TRAIL resistance. We developed a tumor-targeted LCPP (lipid/calcium/phosphate/protamine) nanoparticle (NP) to deliver TRAIL plasmid DNA (pDNA) into hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells in a mouse model of HCC. TRAIL pDNA was encapsulated in a pH stimuli-responsive calcium phosphate (CaP) core, and protamine was added to facilitate nuclear delivery of pDNA. In addition, intracellular release of Ca2+ from the CaP core overcame TRAIL resistance by calcium influx-dependent DR5 up-regulation. TRAIL expression also attenuated fibrosis in liver tissues surrounding HCCs by reverting activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) to a quiescent state or by directly inducing apoptosis in activated HSCs. Conclusion: TRAIL pDNA delivered by HCC-targeted LCPP NPs in combination with conventional sorafenib treatment attenuated HCC progression as well as liver fibrosis. Overall, our study presents an effective TRAIL-based cancer therapy that could be developed for clinical applications. (Hepatology 2018;67:899–913).
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