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AbstractConfining chemotherapy to tumour sites by means of active targeting nanoparticles (NPs) may increase the treatment effectuality while reducing potential side effects. Cubosomes are one of the next-generation drug delivery nanocarriers by virtue of their biocompatibility and bioadhesion, sizeable payload encapsulation and high thermostability. Herein, an active tumour targeting system towards rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cells was evaluated. Cubosomes were loaded with helenalin (a secondary metabolite from Arnica plants), which we have previously shown to induce apoptosis in RMS cells. The functionalization of the cubosomes was accomplished to enable binding to membrane receptors and translocation under a magnetic field. RMS cells overexpress CD44 and CD221 on their membrane surface and, therefore, hyaluronic acid (HA, a ligand for CD44) and antibodies (Abs) against CD221 were coupled to cubosomes via electrostatic attraction and the thiol-Michael reaction, respectively. Magnetization of the cubic phase NPs was achieved by embedding superparamagnetic iron oxide NPs (SPIONPs) into the cubic matrix. Single-function and multi-function cubosomes had Im3m cubic phase structures with well-organized lattice patterns. Conjugation with 2% HA or anti-CD221 half Abs and/or 1% SPIONPs showed significantly higher uptake into RMS cells compared to unfunctionalized cubosomes. CD44 and CD221 directed magnetic (triple-function) cubosomes were capable of internalizing into RMS cells in an energy-independent mechanism. Helenalin-laden triple functionalized cubosomes showed limited impact on the viability of control fibroblast cells, while they induced a high degree cytotoxicity against RMS cells. Profound tumour cell death was observed in both two-dimensional (2D) culture and three-dimensional (3D) tumour spheroids.

Original publication




Journal article


Nano Research


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Date





2915 - 2926