Chemotherapy is almost exclusively administered via the intravenous (IV) route, which has serious limitations (e.g., patient discomfort, long hospital stays, need for trained staff, high cost, catheter failures, infections). Therefore, the development of effective and less costly chemotherapy that is more comfortable for the patient would revolutionize cancer therapy. While subcutaneous (SC) administration has the potential to meet these criteria, it is extremely restrictive as it cannot be applied to most anticancer drugs, such as irritant or vesicant ones, for local toxicity reasons. Herein, we report a facile, general and scalable approach for the SC administration of anticancer drugs through the design of well-defined hydrophilic polymer prodrugs. This was applied to the anticancer drug paclitaxel (Ptx) as a worst-case scenario due to its high hydrophobicity and vesicant properties (two factors promoting necrosis at the injection site), whereas polyacrylamide (PAAm) was chosen as a hydrophilic polymer for its biocompatibility and stealth properties. A small library of Ptx-based polymer prodrugs was designed by adjusting the nature of the linker (ester, diglycolate and carbonate), and then evaluated in terms of rheological/viscosity properties in aqueous solutions, drug release kinetics in PBS and in murine plasma, cytotoxicity on two different cancer cell lines, acute local and systemic toxicity, pharmacokinetics and biodistribution, and finally their anticancer efficacy. We demonstrated that Ptx-PAAm polymer prodrugs could be safely injected subcutaneously without inducing local toxicity while outperforming Taxol, the commercial formulation of Ptx, thus opening the door to the safe transposition from IV to SC chemotherapy.
An error in the affiliation of a co-author has been corrected.