Topotecan Liposomes: A Visit from a Molecular to a Therapeutic Platform

Shivani Saraf, Ankit Jain, Pooja Hurkat, & Sanjay K. Jain*

Pharmaceutics Research Projects Laboratory, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr. H. S. Gour Central University, Sagar (M.P.), India 470 003

* Address all correspondence to: Prof. Sanjay K. Jain, Pharmaceutics Research Projects Laboratory, Department of Phar- maceutical Sciences, Dr. Hari Singh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar (M.P.), India 470 003; Tel. 91-7582-265457; Fax: 91-7582-264163, E-mail: [email protected]

ABSTRACT: Topotecan (TPT), a potent anticancer camptothecin analog, is well described for the treatment of ovarian cancer, but has also anticancer activity against small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer, breast cancer, and acute leukemia. Various nanocarriers, includ- ing liposomes, have been exploited for targeted delivery of TPT. However, there are a num- ber of challenges with TPT delivery using TPT liposomes (TLs), such as low encapsulation efficiency, physiological pH labile E ring (hydrolysis), accelerated blood clearance, multi- drug resistance, and cancer metastases. This review discusses these problems and the means to overcome them, including modification of TLs using zwitterionic poly(carboxybetaine), prolongation in dosing interval (long-term therapy), and modified liposomal encapsulation techniques including active loading methods. We also explore engineered TLs (surface and integral modifications) such as PEGylated TLs, ligand-anchored TLs, and stimuli-sensitive TLs. Further, potential applications, manifestations at the molecular level, patents granted, and preclinical and clinical outlook for TLs are discussed.

KEY WORDS: topotecan, camptothecin, liposomes, cancer, accelerated blood clearance, multidrug resistance

ABBREVIATIONS: ABC, accelerated blood clearance; AUC, area under the curve; BBB, blood–brain barrier; CED, convection-enhanced delivery; CME, clathrin-mediated endocytosis; CPT, camptothecin; CS, chitosan; CvME, caveolin-mediated endocytosis; DMPC, 1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocho- line; DQA, dequalinium; DSPC, distearoylphosphatidylcholine; DSPE-PEG, 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero- 3-phosphoethanolamine-N-[methoxy(polyethylene glycol)-2000]; DSPG, distearoyl phosphatidylglycerol; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; EPR, enhanced permeability and retention; GBM, glioblastoma multiforme; MDR, multidrug resistance; MTT, microtiter tetrazolium; PCB, poly(carboxybetaine); PLD, PEGylated liposomal doxorubicin; PTLs, PEGylated TLs; RES, reticulo-endothelial system; siRNA, small interfering RNA; SOS, sucroseoctasulfate; TAM, tamoxifen; TEAPp, triethylammonium salts of poly- phosphate; TLs, topotecan liposomes; TPGS1000, d-α-tocopheryl polyethylene glycol 1000 succinate; TPT, topotecan; VCR, vincristine; WGA, wheat germ agglutinin; β-GP, β-glycerophosphate

Topotecan (TPT), an alkaloidal analog of camptothecin (CPT) that is isolated from the stem wood of the Camptotheca acuminate tree,1 is a highly potent antitumor drug. CPT derivatives exert antitumor effect by inhibiting the action of the topoisomerase 1 (TOP1)


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and their binding to this nuclear enzyme allows single-strand breaks in the DNA in the S phase of the cell cycle,2 but not its resealing after the strand has untwisted. TPT has been used for the treatment of ovarian cancer, but also has anticancer activity against lung cancer, breast cancer, and acute leukemia.3,4 With pH dependence, the lactone ring opens to form carboxylate form which is an inactive form to act against TOP1.5 Lipo- somes have been used to encapsulate CPT analogs, which can bind to the phospholipids with different affinities. Further, upon binding to the CPTs, the lipids stabilize the lac- tone form by preventing the hydrolysis in physiological milieu.6–8 Some reports have demonstrated that the liposomal encapsulation improved the stability and the antitumor efficacy of TPT liposomes (TLs) compared with those of free TPT. However, low drug to lipid ratios and low entrapment efficiency by passive loading limits the development of pharmaceutically acceptable liposomal formulation. To overcome the low encapsula- tion efficiency, different gradient loading methods have been used to entrap TPT into the liposomes.9 Moreover, recent studies have reported that repeated injection of PEGylated liposomes increased the drug leakage from the vesicle, referred to as the accelerated blood clearance (ABC) phenomenon.10 TPTs are becoming resistant to the tumors after multiple dosing due to overexpression of a family of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)- binding cassette transporters involved in the efflux of anticancer agents from the cells.11
TLs offer several advantages for improving anticancer activity by virtue of vari- ous physicochemical interventions.12 This review focuses on PEGylated TLs (PTLs), ligand-anchored TLs, stimuli-sensitive TLs, different encapsulation methods, molecular manifestations of cellular uptake of these liposomes, the ABC phenomenon, techniques to overcome the resistance-related to ABC transporters, and potential applications of TLs. With the gain of interest in the therapeutic applications of TLs, there is an impetus in research and ruminative literature across the scientific world.

Liposomes can be prepared using a number of methods. Generally, hydrophilic drugs are incorporated into the hydrating medium. In case of lipophilic bioactives, these are added in the organic phase constituting lipids, followed by evaporation to form a thin dry lipid film. The casted thin film is then hydrated in a suitable aqueous phase with or without a hydro- philic bioactive. When the active moiety is entrapped before or during the manufacturing procedure, the method is so called “passive loading.” However, the compound containing ionizable group(s) and those that are soluble in both phases (organic and aqueous) can be entrapped into the preformed liposomes using an active processes called “remote loading.”

A.Passive Loading
Passive loading techniques involve different methods such as mechanical dispersion, solvent dispersion, and detergent solubilization (Table 1).13 In the passive encapsulation method, a drug candidate is added to the dried lipid film before hydration. Depending on the physical and chemical nature of the drug, it can either be incorporated into the lipid bilayer or trapped in the central aqueous core or aqueous spacing between the


TABLE 1: Methods of passive loading
Mechanical dispersion Solvent dispersion Detergent solubilization

Lipid film hydration
by hand shaking method
Reverse phase evaporation vesicles
Detergent (cholate, alkylgly- coside, triton X-100) removal

Micro-emulsification Sonication
French pressure cell
Ethanol injection Ether injection
Double emulsion vesicles
from mixed micelles by Dialysis
Column chromatography Dilution

Membrane extrusion
Stable plurilamellar vesicles

Freeze-thawed liposomes

bilayer. Highly water-soluble drugs show lesser encapsulation efficiency than poorly water-soluble (lipophilic) drugs in passive loading techniques (Fig. 1).

1. Freeze Drying of Double Emulsions to Prepare TLs
Wang et al. (2008) developed TLs using the freeze-drying double-emulsion (FDE) meth- od with hydrogenated soy phosphatidylcholine, N-(carbonyl-methoxypolyethyleneglycol 2000)-1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine, and cholesterol. The physico- chemical state of the drug was modified using an aqueous solution of different pH con- taining the citrate and sulfate. W1/O/W2 double emulsions were prepared and freeze dried to obtain dry formulations. Upon rehydration, the dry formulations were stable for 6 months and showed more than 80% encapsulation efficiency.14,15 Liposomes prepared us- ing the FDE method offer number of advantages, such as production of a dry formulation and avoidance of the problems associated with aqueous TPT used for loading. Therefore, TLs developed using FDE might be an efficient system for the delivery of TPT.16

B.Nigericin-Mediated TPT Loading
Wheeler et al. (1994) demonstrated a drug-loading technique using ionophores such as nigericin and A23187.17 This method involves the following steps: (1) formation of large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) in metal ion salt solutions; (2) preparation of the salt gradient using solvent exchange, and (3) encapsulation of TPT in the presence of iono- phores. Similarly, Cui et al. (2010) entrapped TPT in the aqueous core of the liposome using a nigericin-induced gradient technique.18 This technique improved the stability and entrapment efficiency (Table 2). Nigericin-generated pH gradient or triethylammo- nium (TEA) ion gradient was used to load the TPT into LUVs using 5-sulfosalicylate (5ssa) as the counter ion. The in vitro release profile in NaCl-containing release buffer revealed that the nigericin/Na+-based system showed faster release compared with 5ssa– TEA vesicles. However, in the absence of Na+, both formulations displayed the same drug release kinetics and both enhanced the circulation half-lives of TPT. Moreover, the vesicles prepared by 5ssa–TEA stabilized the encapsulated TPT more efficiently (Table 2). Pharmacokinetics data in an L1210 ascitic tumor model revealed that the admin-


istration of 5ssa–TEA based vesicles at a dose of 10 mg/kg caused the early death of ~60% mice at 6–7 days. In contrast, administration of nigericin/Na+ vesicles at the same dose resulted in an ~18.0 day mean survival time (i.e., ~1.38-fold of that of free TPT). The results demonstrated that nigericin regulated the drug release kinetics efficiently in terms of better safety and efficacy for the delivery of TPT.

C.Gradient Methods
Liu et al. (2002) revealed that entrapped TPT within MLVs can be stabilized in the ac- tive form, which is essential for its biological activity.9 However, due to the amphipathic character of drug, low drug to lipid ratios, and small entrapment volume of TPT in the LUVs limits the development of liposomal formulations that are pharmaceutically ac- ceptable. However, the use of active loading techniques in a TPT liposomal formulation may prove to be beneficial to prolong drug retention and to enhance the drug encap- sulation because the low intravesicular pH gradient generated is an amiable milieu for maintaining the integrity of the lactone form (Fig. 1A,B).19

1.Ammonium Sulfate [(NH4 )2SO4 ] Gradient
With an aim to improve the low encapsulation efficiency, Liu et al. (2002) described the (NH4)2SO4 active loading method to entrap TPT into the aqueous core of liposomes. Us- ing an active loading technique, the entrapment efficiency and drug to lipid molar ratio were improved up to 80–90% and 1:5.4, respectively. These TLs increased the initial drug concentration in the plasma (14-fold) and area under the curve (AUC) (40-fold). In vitro cytotoxicity and in vivo anticancer activity in xenograft models such as syngeneic murine C-26 and human HTB-9 were also improved, along with delayed tumor growth, at a dose of 5 mg/kg compared with free TPT.9 The (NH4)2SO4 active loading technique was intro- duced by Haran et al. to entrap amphipathic weak bases.20 Various critical factors such as time, temperature, drug to lipid ratio, vesicle size, and concentration of (NH4)2SO4 are considered to arrive at the optimized liposomal formulation using (NH4)2SO4 active load- ing technique in terms of maximum loading efficiency.21 The transmembrane ammonium salts gradient technique differs from other gradient techniques applied for active loading of drug because it neither requires formation of liposomes in acidic pH nor alkalinization of the extra liposomal aqueous phase. Taggar et al. (2006) demonstrated that liposomes encapsulated with (NH4)2SO4 create a pH gradient across the lipid bilayer (acidic inside), which drives efficient TPT accumulation22 and can eliminate the systemic toxicity caused by metal ions and encapsulate drug into the liposomes with high encapsulation efficiency.23

2.NH4EDTA Gradient
Gubernator et al. (2010) reported a method of remote drug loading using an EDTA diso- dium or diammonium salt agent. These agents form the low-solubility complexes with TPT inside of the liposomes and avoid rapid clearance of drug from the PTLs. Using this technique, the entrapment efficiency and drug to lipid ratio could be achieved up to 98% and 1:5, respectively.24 Studies conducted by Blumer and Cranton (1989) showed a 90%



















FIG. 1: Drug encapsulation methods. (A) Passive loading, in which a drug is added during rehydra- tion and un-encapsulated drug is separated with a size exclusion column (SEC). (B) Active loading using a pH gradient generated by (NH4)2SO4 or an ionophore. Generally speaking, hydrophilic drugs are trapped in the aqueous core of liposomes and lipophilic drugs are partitioned into the bilayer.

decrement in the death rate of 59 cancer patients treated with calcium EDTA during an 18- year follow-up.25 The most severe side effect was hypercalcinemia; numerous other stud- ies included the appearance of hypercalcinemia in general lymphadenomatosis of bones, mammary adenocarcinoma, and lymphoma.26 Therefore, the liposomes prepared by trans- membrane NH4EDTA gradient have been found to be beneficial in these conditions be- cause the intraliposomal EDTA could chelate extra calcium, resulting in risk avoidance of hypercalcinemia and improved survival and quality of life for the patients. In addition, the presence of EDTA in the liposomal formulations might chelate the residual metal ions that catalyze the oxidation of phospholipids, thus avoiding the degradation of phospholipids and increasing the stability of liposomes. The pH value of the buffer and the cholesterol content both affect encapsulation efficiency and drug retention significantly. Liposomes formulated by the NH4EDTA or (NH4)2SO4 gradient showed the same efficacy, but there


TABLE 2: Analysis of plasma TPT after injection of free or TLs
Total (Lactone + Carboxylate)

Time Free TPT
plasma concentration (g/ml) Carboxylate (% of total)

1 h 0.257 ± 0.13 21.11 ± 0.17
4 h 0.045 ± 0.05 38.14 ± 0.09
1 h 179.9 ± 2.48 3.64 ± 0.08
4 h 80.99 ± 1.45 5.84 ± 0.04
24 h 0.37 ± 0.06 10.19 ± 0.17
1 h 165.8 ± 2.14 1.81 ± 0.02
4 h 86.43 ± 2.02 3.18 ± 0.05
24 h 1.08 ± 0.03 7.23 ± 0.07

were reduced immune system side effects with liposomes prepared using the NH4EDTA gradient method. This gradient technique is an important alternative to other conventional methods in terms of bringing forth higher therapeutic efficacy and reduced side effects.27

3. Using TEA Salts of Polyphosphate or SOS
Due to the nanosize of liposomes, drug complexes are formed intraliposomally with the high-charge-density polyanions placed inside of the liposomes stabilized by the TEA salt of polyphosphate (TEAPp) and sucroseoctasulphate (SOS). The TEAPp-stabilized formulation was relatively more stable compared with the (NH4)2SO4 or divalent cation- stabilized liposomes. In in vivo studies in rats, the t1/2 of in vivo release increased from 5.4 to 12.2 h with the increment of the drug-to-lipid ratio from 150 to 450 g TPT/mol PL. In mice, the amount of TPT encapsulation increased from 6.7 ± 2.5% to 32.3 ± 9.8% with the increment of the drug-to-lipid ratio from 127 to 360 g TPT/mol PL. Fi- nally, substitution of the high-charge-density nonpolymeric small-molecule SOS and

TEAPp unpredictably resulted in an enhancement in both circulation lifetimes (t

8.4 h), especially the in vivo drug release rate (t1/2 = 27.3 h), indicating that SOS formed more stable complexes with TPT compared with sulfate or polyphosphate. In this way, nanoliposomes improved the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile of TPT.28 Some of the lipid-based TPT formulations are listed in the Table 3.

PEGylated liposomes are well known to decrease uptake by mononuclear phagocytic sys- tem and increase the circulation life of the nanocarriers, including liposomes (which also


TABLE 3: Lipid-based TPT formulations Campothecin form/
Method of loading Lipid composition Properties Reference

Campothecin/thin layer lipid evaporation and hydration
N-glutaryl phosphatidyl ethanolamine (NGPE)
97% lipid binding to CPT

TPT/ionophore-induced proton gradient
sphingomyelin and choles- terol (55:45 mole %)
Efficiency of
TPT loading ranged between 90% and 100%

TPT/ammonium sulfate gradient method
HSPC, cholesterol and PEG2000-PE
Encapsulation effi- ciency 90%

DSPC/Chol+/-DSPE- PEG2000; DMPC/Chol+/-; SPE-PEG2000
(various ratios)

95-103-nm-diameter Unilamellar liposomes


Multilamellar liposomes
Maintenance of lactone conformation

DSPC/Chol (3:2 mol:mol) ~70-nm-diameter unilamellar liposomes; 40-fold increase in AUC; maintenance of lactone conformation (60% in PBS)

TPT/(NH4)2SO4 and MnSO4 (+ ionophore A23187)
Lipids (DSPC/Chol (55:45) (mole %)
Encapsulation effi- ciency >90%
show the enhanced permeability and retention, EPR, effect).33 PTLs have also been docu- mented to improve the delivery of CPT analogs.34 Figure 2 represents schematic of PTLs.
In vitro cytotoxicity and biodistribution and in vivo antitumor activity of PTLs formulated with the (NH4)2SO4 loading technique were compared with conventional liposomes or free drug. PTLs improved the in vitro cytotoxic activity against A2780 and HCT-8 cells. In vivo biodistribution studies revealed that liposomal encapsulation enhanced the in vivo drug stability. The in vivo antitumor effect of PTLs against murine hepatocarcinoma H22 tumor-bearing mice was found to be enhanced in terms of the therapeutic efficacy and reduced side effects of TPT compared with unmodified lipo- somes.35 Li et al. (2012) developed PTLs with a low grafting density of PEG (100% loading efficiency) using the (NH4)2SO4 gradient method.36 Plasma release kinetics of the PTLs with a low PEG density followed linear kinetics. These liposomes preferential-









FIG. 2: Schematic of PTLs.

ly accumulated into tumor zones instead of normal tissues compared with free TPT. Da- dashzadeh et al. (2008) studied the effect of PEGylation on in vitro and in vivo profiles of TLs. The distearoylphosphatidylcholine (DSPC)/cholesterol/distearoyl phosphatidyl- glycerol (DSPG) (molar ratio; 7:7:3) were used to formulate the conventional liposomes (CLs) and DSPC/cholesterol/DSPG/1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine- N-[methoxy(polyethylene glycol)-2000] (DSPE-PEG; molar ratio; 7:7:3:1.28) were used to formulate the PTLs. TLs improved the cytotoxicity and stability of the lactone form compared with free drug in murine Lewis lung carcinoma and human mammary adenocarcinoma (BT20) cells in vivo. PTLs increased the AUC0–∞ by 52-fold and 2-fold compared with free TPT and CLs, respectively.37 These studies showed that PTLs are an effective nanocarrier for TPT in terms of enhanced safety and efficacy.

B. Ligand-Anchored TLs
Most cancer cells show some anomalous features compared with the normal host cells. Selective targeting of anticancer drugs with the help of ligand could bind specifically to the tumor-associated or specific proteins expressed on the cancer cell surface.38 Figure 3 represents ligand-anchored TLs Roth et al. (2007) developed immunoliposomes using internalizing anti-CD166 human single-chain variable fragment (scFv) to target prostate cancer. Drugs such as TPT, doxorubicin (Dox), and mitoxantrone were loaded into H3- targeted immunoliposomes targeting DNA metabolism. It was found that H3 scFv-target- ed immunoliposomes bearing the drug were delivered efficiently to cancer cells.39 Anti- CD166 (H3 scFv)-anchored, TPT-loaded immunoliposomes showed higher cytotoxicity compared with plain TLs or free drug. Immunoliposome-bearing Dox exhibited similar improvements in cytotoxicity that revealed modification of the efficacies of these drugs because of varying potential of internalization. Du et al. (2009) applied tamoxifen (TAM) and wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) modified dual-targeting TLs to target brain tumor. WGA was conjugated to the surface of liposome membrane and facilitated drug transport









FIG. 3: Ligand-anchored TLs.

across the brain. TAM inhibits the efflux of multidrug resistance (MDR) protein in the brain tumor. TAM + WGA-modified TLs increased drug transfer across the blood–brain barrier (BBB) and improved the survival of animals with brain tumors.40 Drummond et al. (2010) reported that anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anti-HER2 immunoliposomal formulations dramatically increased the uptake of TPT against HER2- overexpressing human breast cancer (BT474) xenografts compared with nontargeted TLs.28 Zhou et al. (2007) used the EGFR scFv to target immunoliposomal nanoparticles (ILs) to EGFR-expressing tumor cells, revealing a 280-fold range of affinities, binding, and uptake into tumor cells.41 Jain et al. (2013) reported the folate-targeted PLs for the delivery of paclitaxel (Pac) and TPT combination for treatment of ovarian cancer. Lipo- somal co-encapsulation of anticancer drug combination can increase the cytotoxicity and reduce the side effects in OVCAR-3 cell line.12 The synergistic attack of Pac and TPT was attributed to cell-specific killing in the G2/M phase and S-phase, respectively.42 These multipronged liposomes with the additive feature of thermoresponsiveness enhanced the antitumor efficacy and prolong survival time in mice with tumors.43

C. Stimuli-Sensitive TLs
Stimuli-sensitive delivery systems release the drug as a result of destabilization of the system caused by any external or internal factor such as temperature, pH, or electrolyte concentration. Temperature-sensitive systems are found to increase the permeability of tumor cells and hence the accumulation of drug into the tumor cells.44,45 A representative diagram of stimuli-sensitive TLs is shown in Figure 4. Xing et al. (2014) incorporated TLs into an in situ hydrogel consisting of chitosan (CS) and β-glycerophosphate (β-GP). The release of TLs from CS/β-GP hydrogel at physiological conditions was slow and maintained the lactone form (40% fraction) for 50 hours. Moreover, the hydrogel showed significantly enhanced antitumor potential in Kunming mice bearing Hepatoma-22 tu- mors after injection into the tumor.46,47 A recent study performed on thermosensitive








FIG. 4: Representative diagram of stimuli-sensitive TLs.

liposomes bearing a Pac and TPT combination (synergistic) showed abrupt dispersal of the drugs at the tumor site in response to hyperthermia conditions (~42°C), leading to an increased rate of killing of ovarian cancer cells in a mouse model.43

Liposomes are internalized into the cells by two major pathways: phagocytosis and endo- cytosis (Table 4).48,49 The cells involved in phagocytosis are macrophages, monocytes, and neutrophils. C-reactive protein, immunoglobulins, and serum proteins etc. are involved in opsonization of liposomes for phagocytosis.50–52 Receptor–ligand complex actively trig- gers a signaling pathway. The extension of actin-dependent pseudopodia, engulfment of the carrier, ingestion, and formation of phagolysosomes are major steps involved in

TABLE 4: Cellular uptake mechanisms of liposomes

Mechanisms of endocytosis
Primary cell types involved

Implicated cargoes

Vesicle size

Macrophages, monocytes, neutro- phils, dendritic cells
Pathogens, apoptotic remnants
>250 nm

All cells
Fluid phase markers,
RTKs (receptor tyrosine kinase)
1–5 μm

CDE and fluid-phase endocytosis
All cells
Enhanced by specific ligands (LDL, transferrin, and epider- mal growth factor)
<150 nm

All cells (endothelial cells)
Enhanced by ligands such as albumin, cholesterol, and folic acid
<80 nm

CDE- and CvDE-free endocytosis
All cells
Selected by using targeting ligands specific for rafts
<50 nm


phagocytosis (Fig. 5A). The long-circulating liposomes containing PEG-derived phos- pholipids are found to localize preferentially in the tumor due to extravasation from the leaky vasculature in the tumor tissues (Fig. 5B).53–56 The uptake and intracellular fate of TLs is highly dependent on particle size. Larger particles and volumes of the extracellular fluid (ECF) are taken up by phagocytosis and macropinocytosis. Smaller particles (<150 nm) are taken up and processed via at least three other mechanisms (Fig. 6).47
Nonphagocytic endocytosis includes the uptake of fluids as well as solutes through the following mechanisms: clathrin-dependent endocytosis (CDE), macropinocytosis, caveolin-dependent endocytosis (CvDE), and clathrin- and caveolin-free endocytosis.57 Macropinocytosis shares some common features with phagocytosis, but it forms larger vesicles (1–5 μm) and involves engulfment of the ECF and its content nonspecifically (Fig. 6A). Signaling and nutrient macromolecule are internalized by CDE. CDE in- volves formation of basket-like structures due to polymerization of clathrin followed by the formation of dynamin-dependent clathrin-coated vesicles (Fig. 6B).58 CvDE is involved in the endocytosis of various proteins, viruses, and smaller nanocarriers in- cluding fabricated liposomes. CvDE is extremely regulated endocytosis and involves a complex signaling cascade compared with CDE (Fig. 6C).48,59

A.CPT Delivery Challenges
Although the advent of CPT and Taxol as milestones in cancer treatment60 has been shown in preclinical studies, great success in recognizing their fullest antitumor potential has not yet been achieved at clinical outset due to safety concerns.43 Poor water solubility is the biggest challenge in the formulation, development, and delivery of the active form of the drugs in optimal amounts to cancer cells. To increase the solubility, an early sodium salt of the drug has also been tried. With advances in modifications of CPT forbetter solu- bility, two derivatives, irinotecan and TPT, are under extensive investigation in clinical studies.61 However, pH instability of the lactone ring (in all CPT analogs) in plasma is the major problem with delivery of the active form to tumor tissues. When the lactone ring opens to convert into the carboxylate form, this open ring becomes inactive in bind- ing specificity towards TOP1 (Fig. 7).62 At physiological pH, the half-life of carboxylate form is reported to be few minutes, resulting in much less of the active lactone form in the plasma. Moreover, blood albumin binds to this active form, lowering the drug concentra- tion even more.61,63 All of these problems show the need to introduce more stable analogs and fabricate nanocarriers for improved or selective delivery of CPTs.64

1. Advantages of TLs
Several reports revealed that encapsulation of CPT into liposomes can protect or maintain the active lactone form.8,19,36,43,65–68 Burke and Gao (1994) showed that the stability of the active lactone form of TPT was increased when the drug was encapsulated into DSPC vesicles.31 Subramanian and Muller reported that TLs were more efficient in stabilizing covalent topoisomerase-I DNA intermediates (three to four times) compared with free
















FIG.6: Non-phagocytic endocytosis methods such as clathrin-mediated endocytosis, macropino- cytosis and caveolin-mediated endocytosis.










FIG. 7: pH-dependant lactone-carboxylate hydrolysis equilibrium of CPT.


TPT.65 The plain liposomes (conventional, non-PEGylated) are opsonized by the reticulo- endothelial system (RES). PEGylation technique is used to protect liposomes from the RES by coating the surface of liposomes with PEG. PEGylation renders a hydrophilic protective coat that manifests steric repulsion to avoid adsorption of opsonin proteins in the so-called avoidance of opsonization.51,69 Vali et al. (2008) investigated the long circu- latory effect of PEG in TLs composed of DMPC/cholesterol or DSPC/cholesterol and ob- served improved AUC (2-fold higher) in the case of PEGylated liposomes over conven- tional liposomes.30 In vivo studies in syngeneic C-26 and HTB-9 murine models showed the reduction of tumor volume after treatment with TLs compared with free drug.9 In similar research, TLs also improved antitumor efficacy in DU-145 and BT-474 xeno- grafts.64 These investigations revealed that PEGylated liposomes could be an important technological platform for intratumoral administration of TPT. The selective targeting of liposomes leads to better profiles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, con- trolled and sustained release of drugs, improved specificity, increased internalization and intracellular delivery, and, more importantly, a lower systemic toxicity.70 Moreover, the stimuli-sensitive liposomes avoid lysosomal degradation of entrapped drug(s) and pro- mote cytosolic drug dislodgment as a result of destabilization of the liposome membrane caused by certain internal or external stimuli such as changes of physiological pH, tissue specific enzymes, physiological temperature, or electrolyte concentration. The stimuli- sensitive liposomes release the drug selectively into the target site, thereby increasing the efficacy of liposomes and decreasing the side effects of the drug(s).71 There are number of advantages of targeted and stimuli-sensitive liposomes, such as: (1) decreased drug con- centration in normal tissue; (2) improved pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics pro- files; (3) improved solubility of drug to allow intravenous administration; (4) minimum drug release during transit; (5) maximum release of drug at the targeted site; (6) increased drug stability to reduce drug degradation; (7) improved internalization and intracellular delivery; and (8) biocompatibility and biodegradability.69

B.ABC Transporter-Mediated Resistance
Multidrug resistance (MDR) of tumors and cancer metastases are obstacles to successful chemotherapy.11 MDR is associated with overexpression of ABC transporter glycoproteins that actively efflux the drug from the cells against the concentration gradient at the expense of metabolic energy, thus preventing the accumulation of active agents in therapeutic con- centration within the cell.72 Intrinsic resistance is mainly associated with mitochondria and plays an important role in apoptosis. Pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic regulatory genes are present on the membrane of mitochondria and up-regulation of anti-apoptotic proteins and/
or the down-regulation of pro-apoptotic proteins is responsible for apoptotic resistance.73

C.Techniques to Overcome the Resistance Related to ABC Transporters
1.Mitochondrial Targeting
TPT is a substrate of ABC transporters such as ABCB1 protein (P-gp), and ABCG2 protein. Yu et al. (2012) reported TLs targeted to mitochondria for surpassing MDR


and resistance-related metastases. A strong inhibitory effect was observed against MCF-7 cells and resistant MCF-7/adr cells and their xenografts in mice. A marked an- timetastastic effect was also found on the naturally resistant B16 melanoma metastatic model in mice.74 Mitochondria targeted liposomes deliver the drug selectively into the mitochondria by opening the mitochondrial permeability transition pores that results in release of cytochrome C and activation of the caspase 9 and caspase 3. The cascade finally leads to induced apoptosis. Dequalinium (DQA) and D-α-tocopheryl polyeth- ylene glycol 1000 succinate (TPGS1000) were used as a mitochondrial targeting agent and a functional agent for inhibiting drug efflux caused by ABC transporter, respec- tively. Weiss et al. (1987) demonstrated that double positively charged dequalinium could comprise a unique class of anticarcinoma agents. DQA inhibited the growth of human colon carcinoma CX-1 in nude mice and recurrent rat colon carcinoma W163 and prolonged the survival of mice with intraperitoneally implanted mouse bladder carcinoma MB49.75 Lipophilic cationic compounds such as DQA are used for selec- tive delivery of drugs to the mitochondria because of selective accumulation in the mitochondria of tumor cells in response to the transmembrane electric potential.76 TPGS1000 is reported to be an excellent component for formation of novel carriers because it increases the uptake of drugs into the tumor cell by inhibiting the drug ef- flux caused by ABC transporters.77 The mechanisms of action of mitochondrial target- ing TLs involve the following crucial points:

1.The weak acidic medium inside of the liposomes improves the stability of lac- tone species. In addition, the pharmacokinetic properties can be improvised by decreasing the vesicle size to desired nanometers and stealthing the TLs using a PEGylation technique that improves the therapeutic potential by means of ef- fectual EPR effect in tumor masses.
2.TPGS1000 inhibits the drug efflux of ABC transporters and overcomes drug resistance.
3.Mitochondria-targeted TLs induce apoptosis via the mitochondrial signaling pathway and could offer an effective strategy to overcome the resistance related to the drug introduced by overexpression of ABC transporters and intrinsic re- sistance related to the mitochondria of cancer cells.74

2.Stealth TLs + Amlodipine
The overexpression of P-gp decreases the sensitivity and intracellular accumulation of anticancer drugs, thus reducing the efficacy of these chemotherapeutic agents. Co- administration of agents that reverse the overexpression of P-gp was investigated to improve the therapeutic activity of anticancer drugs such as cyclosporin A and quini- dine.78 However, a high level of toxicity was revealed in the clinical trials.79 Li et al. (2006) demonstrated that simultaneous administration of a modulating agent such as amlodipine improves the anticancer effect of chemotherapeutic agents by reversing the drug resistance related to P-gp efflux pump and simultaneously inducing apoptosis in the cancer cells through various intrinsic pathways (Fig. 8).4














FIG. 8: Apoptosis phenomenon.

Caspase 8 initiates the apoptotic pathway and also activates caspase 3 and caspase 9, which play an important role in the cascade of apoptosis.80 Microtiter tetrazolium (MTT) assay demonstrated that TPT and amlodipine acted synergistically in leukemia cells, HL-60, MDR HL-60 cells, and K562, respectively. A cytotoxicity assay demon- strated that TPT alone was resistant to the MDR HL-60 cells. TPT in combination with higher dose of amlodipine (≥25 μM) exhibited a strong inhibitory effect, but a minimal inhibitory effect was observed at a low dose of amlodipine (5 or 10μM) on MDR HL-60 cells. These results indicated that a higher dose of amlodipine helped to reverse drug re- sistance by activating caspase 3, 7, and 8. Furthermore, the correlated activity of caspase 3 and caspase 7 with intracellular Ca2+ showed that amlodipine mediated depletions of internal Ca2+ stores involved in the activation of caspase 3, 7, and 8.81 Moreover, am- lodipine enhanced the apoptosis-inducing effect of TPT synergistically. The enhanced antitumor activity by the PTLs + amlodipine was attributed to synergistic apoptosis response, reversal of the resistance related to MDR by amlodipine, and protection of ac- tive lactone form of TPT within the liposomes. Therefore, this synergistic dual approach could be a promising strategy for reversing P-gp-related MDR.82

Li et al. (2013) reported that repeated injection of PTLs negates the long-circulating char- acteristic referred to as the “ABC phenomenon,” which limits the clinical use of therapeu-


tically acceptable TLs (Fig. 9).82 Ma et al. (2012) reported that the ABC response is still induced by a first injection of the PTLs.79 Li et al. (2012) studied the effect of PEG graft- ing density on ABC phenomenon in rats. The formulation prepared by 9% PEG grafting density exhibited more severe ABC response compared with a formulation prepared with 3% PEG grafting density after the first dose.83 Fugit et al. (2015) established a relation- ship between impulsive drug release and the change in the internal pH (acidic). They also found that the amount of ammonia in blood altered the kinetics profile of drug.84













FIG. 9: ABC phenomenon.
E. Techniques to Overcome the Resistance Related to ABC
1.Prolongation of Dosing Time Interval
Repeated injections of the PTLs are found to elicit the ABC phenomenon.82 To investi- gate the induction of this phenomenon, the PTLs were introduced repeatedly with a time interval of 7, 21, and 28 days into the beagle dogs. The first injection of PTLs produced a strong ABC phenomenon. Contact between empty vesicles and B cells triggered the production of an IgM response. The prolongation of time interval between injections decreased the IgM response. Upon repeated injection after 7 days, it was revealed that the IgM level reached the peak concentration and then returned to a normal level gradu- ally. Further, increasing the time interval to 3 weeks between doses might produce the


ABC response. Finally, the time interval between doses was increased up to 4 weeks. Repeated injection after 4 weeks could not induce the ABC phenomenon due to disap- pearance of the IgM antibody because IgM returned to a normal level. Therefore, pro- longation of time interval between the doses (first to fourth weeks) eliminated the ABC phenomenon (Fig. 10).83–85

2.Poly(carboxybetaine) (PCB)-Modified TLs
Li et al. (2015) developed zwitterionic PCB-decorated TLs. Similar to PEG, PCB could enhance the stability of liposomes by avoiding protein adsorption. The PCB coating (PCBylation) on TLs that were pH sensitive facilitated more accumulation into cells via endocytosis. Furthermore, the avoidance of the ABC phenomenon by the PCBylated TLs was also supported by enhanced tumor accumulation in vivo. As a result, PCBylated TLs significantly decreased tumor growth and could be an alternative tool to PTLs for cancer treatment.86

A.Ovarian Cancer
Various anticancer agents have been well established for anticancer activity specifi- cally in patients with recurrent epithelial ovarian carcinoma , including gemcitabine, TPT, liposomal Dox, and prolonged oral etoposide.87,88 TPT is an FDA-approved second-line drug for treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer.89 Topophore C is a nano- liposomal formulation of TPT that was loaded by complexing with copper. TPT was entrapped into preformed liposomal formulation containing 300 mM CuSO4 and the divalent metal ionophore A23187. Using this method, the encapsulation efficiency of TLs was found to increase up to 98% and final drug/lipid mole ratio was achieved up to 0.1. In vivo assessment after Topophore C administration in a mouse ES2 ovarian cancer model showed increased TPT plasma half-life and AUC by 10- and 22-fold, respectively, compared with free drug. Topophore C is a therapeutically interesting drug candidate when given in combination with liposomal Dox for the treatment of platinum-refractory ovarian cancer.90 A Dox–TPT combination was administered into OVCAR-3, ES-2, and SKOV-3 ovarian cancer cell lines and the cells were exposed to the drugs from 1 to 72 h. The Dox–TPT combination exhibited an additive effect in SKOV-3 and a synergistic effect in OVCAR-3 and ES-2 cells compared with either drug alone. Therefore, the Dox–TPT combination was found to be more effective compared with either agent alone.91

B.Advanced Cervical Cancer
TPT has proved to be effective clinically for the treatment of cervical cancer. Boabang et al. (2000) compared the cytotoxicity of TPT with cisplatin in the squamous cell cancer cell lines of the cervix, uterus, and vulva such as the C-33, CaSki, and CAL-39 cell lines. TLs were more effective than cisplatin in C-33 and CaSki cell lines Fur-

thermore, TPT had a synergistic interaction with a number of antineoplastic drug such as cisplatin, etoposide, and Pac in some cell lines.92 Kim et al. reported that TPT also showed radiation-sensitizing activity in number of cancers, along with anticancer ac- tivity such as human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, a radio-resistant human melanoma, glioblastoma, and non-small-cell lung cancer.93,94 The combination of TPT and radiotherapy displayed a favorable cytotoxicity profile in phase I clinical trials. Nine patients with an advanced squamous cell cervical cancer were treated with doses of 1.0 mg/m2 TPT (up to 5 days) concomitant with radiotherapy,67 resulting in their overcoming a dose-limiting toxicity. At this dose, one patient of three showed grade 3 anemia and two patients showed grade 2 neutropenia.95 Coronel et al. (2009) revealed that administration of weekly 3 mg/m2 TPT at days 1, 8, and 15 in 28-day cycles is safe and well tolerated.96

C.Brain Targeting
Serwer et al. (2011) reported that intravenous delivery of nanosized TLs (nTLs) showed potential anticancer efficacy against glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Intravenous ad- ministration of nTLs into three distinct orthotropic GBM models improved the phar- macokinetic profile and biodistribution of TPT and increased the survival time of mice against the intracranial GBM xenografts compared with free drug.97

1.Dual Targeting
Chemotherapy of brain tumors has many obstacles, such as poor drug permeation across the BBB, MDR, and low penetration into brain cancer cells. Du et al. (2009) proposed a dual-targeting liposomal carrier modified with TAM and WGA to overcome these limitations. TAM was entrapped into the bilayer of liposomal vesicles and used as a functional agent for inhibiting the drug efflux caused by the ABC transporter. WGA was conjugated to the surface of liposomes and facilitated the permeation in BBB and endo- cytosis in brain tumor. TPT was loaded into the modified liposomes. An in vitro study was performed on the BBB model, glioma cells, and avascular C6 glioma spheroids. An investigation of drug permeation across the BBB model after drug contact with tumor cells showed dual-targeting effect and improved penetration into the BBB after targeted drug delivery to the tumor cells. In vivo studies revealed that TAM + WGA-modified TLs administered to the brains of C6 glioma-bearing rats improved overall survival time. MTT results showed a better cytotoxicity profile of these modified liposomes com- pared with conventional TLs. Therefore, TAM + WGA-modified TLs improved brain tumor delivery with dual-targeting effects.40

2.Convection-Enhanced Delivery (CED) of TLs
Saito et al. (2006) reported that CED of TLs could be an attractive approach for treat- ment of the malignant glioma. The approach offered efficient treatment for a malignant glioma xenograft model at a low dose. CED of TLs improved retention of the TPT into the brain tissue (t1/2 = 1.5 days) compared with free TPT (t1/2 = 0.1 days). There


was extended release of drug up to 7 days in the case of CED. Antitumor effects and anti-angiogenic effects were enhanced. Vascular targeting of TLs with CED into the rat intracranial U87MG tumor model showed a reduction in vascular density and laminin expression compared with free drug.98 However, the mechanism of anti-angiogenesis was not clearly identified. Nakashio et al. (2002) hypothesized that inhibition of phos- phorylation of Akt is involved in anti-angiogenic activity of TPT.99 An externalized catheter and infusion system are used for intracerebral CED of anticancer drug, which requires hospitalization and may have a risk of infection.100 Metronomic dosing involves continuous low-dose chemotherapy and is an efficient technique for targeting tumor blood vessels.101 Several investigations demonstrated that metronomic chemotherapy improved efficacy compared with conventional dosing.102 TPT displays preferential an- ti-angiogenic effects at low concentrations. Therefore, the combination of TLs and CED improves therapeutic activity and shows potential anti-angiogenic effects.98

D.Renal Targeting
TPT, along with survivin-specific small interfering RNA (siRNA) combination therapy showed a synergistic effect as a result of improved cellular uptake of siRNA and has been used for the treatment of renal cancer. Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis protein present in various tumors and can be an attractive target for cancer treatment. Sato et al. (2007) revealed that the TPT and survivin combination showed the better suppression of survivin expression and cell growth.103

E.Anti-Angiogenic Potential
The formation of new blood vessels from preexisting vessels is known as angiogen- esis.104,105 Angiogenesis inhibitors can be attractive agents for the treatment of cancers. Gasparini et al. (1995) reported that inhibition of tumor blood supply is a promising strategy in the treatment of cancer,106 so research has focused on the discovery of anti- angiogenic drugs.107 TNP-470 and pentosan sulfate are used as a endothelial cell pro- liferation inhibitor.108 Throbospondin 1 (TSP-1) is an inhibitor of angiogenesis and en- dothelial cell proliferation. It is regulated by the p53 onco-protein. Inhibition of DNA replication results in up-regulation of the p53 onco-protein, which is involved in the release of TSP-1.109,110 CPT and TPT are found to elicit potent, cytotoxic, antiprolifera- tive activity on human endothelial cells in vitro.66

F.Combination Therapy
The combination of drugs can overcome resistance problems due to different modes of action and may improve therapeutic efficacy due to synergistic response.111 Combination therapy offers many advantages such as improved patient compliance due to decreased dosing frequency, additive or synergistic effects, capability to overcome drug resistance, and decreased dose compared with single drug.112–114 Pharmacologic manifestations of different drug combinations with TPT are described in Figure 11 and Table 5.

TABLE 5: TPT combination with other drugs
Combination Disease

Topotecan and Doxirubicin TPT and Pac
Epithelial ovarian carcinoma

TPT with cisplatin Cervical cancer

TPT with TAM and WGA TPT and gadodiamide
1.TPT and Vincristine
Nanoliposomes are used for the delivery of TPT and vincristine (VCR) combination that act synergistically against cancer. Zecker et al. (2012) entrapped the VCR and TPT com- bination into the nanoliposomes (LipoViTo) using the (NH4)2SO4 method.115 LipoViTo maintained a fixed drug ratio in vivo by controlling drug release and was better than the free drugs and liposomal formulation with a single drug in the human cell lines Daoy (medulloblastoma) and SW480 (colon cancer) tumor models in mice.116

2.TPT and Gadodiamide
CED of highly stable PEGylated liposomes offers effective, continuous, low-dose chemotherapy for the treatment of malignant glioma. Grahn et al. (2009) developed convectable non-PEGylated liposomes remote loaded simultaneously with two drugs, TPT (topoCED) and paramagnetic gadodiamide (gadoCED). The combination of topoCED and gadoCED was found to co-convect well in both naive rat brain and malignant glioma xenografts (correlation coefficients 0.97–0.99). In a U87MG intra- cranial rat xenograft model, median overall survival was found to be increased while administering topoCED in combination with gadoCED compared with control. This dual therapy improved therapeutic activity and reduced toxicity compared with the single agents.117

3.TPT and Pac
Jain et al. (2013) reported the folate (FR-α)-targeted liposomes bearing Pac–TPT (20:1, w/w) combination. SRB cytotoxicity assay demonstrated that free drugs in a combi- nation were more cytotoxic [half-maximal growth inhibition (GI50) = 6.5 µg/ml] than positive control (adriamycin, GI50 = 9.1 µg/ml) and FR-targeted PEGylated liposomes (GI50 = 14.7 µg/ml) in OVCAR-3 cell lines. The FR-α-targeted Pac–TLs improved the therapeutic effect and reduced side effects.12 In a subsequent study, they elucidated the pattern of drug release from these liposomes that followed Fickian diffusion and the Peppas model as the best fit model. Moreover, results of in vivo studies depicted long circulatory potential in terms of increased AUC0-t and AUMC0-t and MRT and selective accumulation of FR-targeted-PEGylated liposomes in the ovaries after intravenous ad- ministration.43


4.TPT and Dox
Saucier et al. (2007) evaluated the combination of Dox with other anticancer drugs such as docetaxel, TPT, and gemcitabine in the ovarian cancer xenograft mouse mod- el ES-2 (platinum sensitive) and OVCAR3 (platinum resistant). They found that the Dox–TPT combination was more effective and improved tumor growth inhibition and regression from 76.1% to 100%.118 Economic analyses in patients with ovarian cancer showed that PEGylated liposomal Dox (PLD) has lower overall treatment costs than TPT because it is administered less frequently and requires fewer interventions for toxicity.119 PLD was also found to be more effective than TPT.120 In platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, the results of phase III randomized trial showed that PLD and TPT as a single drug had same efficacy in response rates, but PLD enhanced survival compared with TPT.121 Patients were treated with an infusion of PLD at 50 mg/m2 for 1 h every
4weeks or a TPT dose of 1.5 mg/m2/d for 5 consecutive days every 3 weeks. PLD showed overall response rates of 19.7% and median overall survival times of 60 weeks and TPT showed overall response rates of 17.0% and median overall survival times of 56.7 weeks.122 In a phase II study, 27 patients were treated with a combination of Dox liposomes at a dose of 30 mg/m2 at day 1, followed by a TPT dose of 1 mg/m2 daily for
5days. These cycles were continued for every 21 days. The overall response rate and median overall survival were found to be 28% and 40 weeks, respectively. In another study of the combination of Doxil at a dose of 40 mg/m2 at day 1 and TPT at 0.4 mg/
m2/day (continuous infusion) for 1–14 days could be safe for the treatment of cancer.123 These results indicated that combination therapy may be more advantageous than a single chemotherapeutic agent.124

Protection and encouragement offered to patients by new patents play an essential role in promoting the research and development of promising drug-delivery systems and novel approaches for safe and effective treatment of cancer.125 A patent confers to an inventor the sole right to exclude others from economically exploiting the innovation for a limited time.126 Some patents granted for TLs are listed in Table 6.

TABLE 6: Patents Granted for TLs
Year Patent description Ref.

2002 A composition for administration of a therapeutically effective dose (0.10 μmole per μmole lipid) of a top I inhibitor or top I/II inhibitor entrapped in the liposomes is described

2005TLs can be reconstituted from lyophilized form to an injectable suspension having selected liposome sizes (0.05–0.25 microns) and between about 85% and 100% entrapment

2006Improved liposomal CPT compositions and methods of manufacturing and using for treating neoplasia and for inhibiting angiogenesis


TABLE 6: (continued)
Year Patent description Ref.

2010 Preparation methods of blank polycystin liposome and a TPT hydrochloride containing polycystin liposome, which showed the better slow release and improved antitumor activity

2010 Compositions comprising a liposomal water-soluble CPT and optionally a liposomal fluoropyrimidine in combination with a vascular epithelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor (cetuximab)/EGFR inhibitor (bevacizumab), which would improve the chemotherapeutic effects

2012Improved liposomal CPT compositions and methods of manufacturing and using for treating neoplasia and for inhibiting angiogenesis

2013TPT hydrochloride liposome injection and a preparation method using TPT hydrochloride, cholesterol succinate, lauroyl phosphatidylcholine, polyethyl- ene glycol (PEG) 600, Tween 60, trehalose, and mannitol in specific weight ratio

2014Preparation method and composition of novel hydrochloric acid TPT intra- tumor injection; combination of liposomes and an in situ thermosensitive gel technique are used

2014 Liposome comprising bilayer and inner water phase containing sulfobutyl ether cyclodextrin and active compound (such as vinorelbine, VCR, TPT, or irinotecan)

2014 A simple and effective method for preparing liposome of a water-soluble drug (Dox or mitoxantrone; vinorelbine tartrate or TPT hydrochloride species)


TPT is a potent anticancer CPT analog being exploited extensively to target TOP1 in various cancers. Targeted delivery of TPT using liposomes shows improved efficacy in terms of minimizing side effects and maintaining the active lactone form of the drug. Active-loading methods increase the encapsulation efficiency up to 80–90% and over- come the drawbacks of the passive-loading method. Mitochondria-targeted liposomes and PTLs + amlodipine simultaneously induce apoptosis and overcome MDR. The pro- longation of dosing intervals and PCB modification of TLs are an effective technique to overcome the ABC phenomenon (which increases the clearance of the delivery system) induced by PTLs. Therefore, TLs could be a promising carrier for drugs in the treatment of cancer and are associated with a number of opportunities and challenges. A quest to improve the physicochemical and physiological stability of TLs and to exploit the fullest potential of nanotechnology-based fabrications of liposomes is still needed.

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