Background: Metastases are the most common reason of cancer death in patients with solid tumors. Lymph nodes, once invaded by tumor cells, act as reservoirs before cancer cells spread to distant organs. To address the limited access of intravenously infused chemotherapeutics to the lymph nodes, we have developed PEGylated polyglutamic acid nanocapsules (PGA-PEG NCs), which have shown ability to reach and to accumulate in the lymphatic nodes and could therefore act as nanotransporters. Once in the lymphatics, the idea is that these nanocapsules would selectively interact with cancer cells, while avoiding non-specific interactions with immune cells and the appearance of subse‑ quent immunotoxicity.
Results: The potential of the PGA-PEG NCs, with a mean size of 100 nm and a negative zeta potential, to selectively reach metastatic cancer cells, has been explored in a novel 3D model that mimics an infiltrated lymph node. Our 3D model, a co-culture of cancer cells and lymphocytes, allows performing experiments under dynamic conditions that simulate the lymphatic flow. After perfusion of the nanocarriers, we observe a selective interaction with the tumor cells. Efficacy studies manifest the need to develop specific therapies addressed to treat metastatic cells that can be in a dormant state.
Conclusions: We provide evidence of the ability of PGA-PEG NCs to selectively interact with the tumor cells in pres‑ ence of lymphocytes, highlighting their potential in cancer therapeutics. We also state the importance of designing precise in vitro models that allow performing mechanistic assays, to efficiently develop and evaluate specific thera‑ pies to confront the formation of metastasis