Biodistribution and bioimaging studies of hybrid paclitaxel nanocrystals: Lessons learned of the EPR effect and image-guided drug delivery

Christin P. Hollis, Heidi L. Weiss, Markos Leggas, B. Mark Evers, Richard A. Gemeinhart, Tonglei Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Paclitaxel (PTX) nanocrystals (200 nm) were produced by crystallization from a solution. Antitumor efficacy and toxicity were examined through a survival study in a human HT-29 colon cancer xenograft murine model. The antitumor activity of the nanocrystal treatments was comparable with that by the conventional solubilization formulation (Taxol®), but yielded less toxicity as indicated by the result of a survival study. Tritium-labeled PTX nanocrystals were further produced with a near infrared (NIR) fluorescent dye physically integrated in the crystal lattice. Biodistribution and tumor accumulation of the tritium-labeled PTX nanocrystals were determined immediately after intravenous administration and up to 48 h by scintillation counting. Whole-body optical imaging of animals was concurrently carried out; fluorescent intensities were also measured from excised tumors and major organs of euthanized animals. It was found that drug accumulation in the tumor was less than 1% of 20 mg/kg intravenous dose. Qualitatively correlation was identified between the biodistribution determined by using tritium-labeled particles and that using optical imaging, but quantitative divergence existed. The divergent results suggest possible ways to improve the design of hybrid nanocrystals for cancer therapy and diagnosis. The study also raises questions of the general role of the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect in tumor targeting and the effectiveness of bioimaging, specifically for theranostics, in tracking drug distribution and pharmacokinetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Biodistribution
  • Chemotherapy
  • EPR
  • Nanocrystals
  • Paclitaxel
  • Theranostics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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