Quercetin (Que) is known to have biological benefits including an anticancer effect, but low water solubility limits its clinical application. The aim of this study was to develop a lecithin-based mixed polymeric micelle (LMPM) delivery system to improve the solubility and bioavailability of Que. The optimal Que-LMPM, composed of Que, lecithin, Pluronic® P123, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine-N-methoxy[poly(ethylene glycol)-2000] in a proportion of 3:1:17.5:2.5 (w/w), was prepared by a thin-film method. The average size, polydispersion index, encapsulating efficiency, and drug loading of Que-LMPM were 61.60±5.02 nm, 0.589±0.198, 96.87%±9.04%, and 12.18%±1.11%, respectively. The solubility of Que in the Que-LMPM system increased to 5.81 mg/mL, compared to that of free Que in water of 0.17–7.7 μg/mL. The Que-LMPM system presented a sustained-release property in vitro. The in vitro cytotoxicity assay showed that the 50% inhibitory concentration values toward MCF-7 breast cancer cells for free Que, blank LMPMs, and Que-LMPMs were >200, >200, and 110 μM, respectively, indicating the nontoxicity of the LMPM carrier, but the LMPM formulation enhanced the cytotoxicity of Que against MCF-7 cells. A cellular uptake assay also confirmed the intake of Que-LMPM by MCF-7 cells. An in vivo pharmacokinetic study demonstrated that Que-LMPMs had higher area under the concentration–time curve and a longer half-life, leading to better bioavailability compared to a free Que injection. Due to their nanosize, core–shell structure, and solubilization potential, LMPMs were successfully developed as a drug delivery system for Que to improve its solubility and bioavailability.
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