Optimized Doxorubicin Chemotherapy for Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma Exploits Nanocarrier Delivery to Transferrin Receptors

Artavazd Arumov, Piumi Y. Liyanage, Asaad Trabolsi, Evan R. Roberts, Lingxiao Li, Braulio C.L.B. Ferreira, Zhen Gao, Yuguang Ban, Austin D. Newsam, Melissa W. Taggart, Francisco Vega, Daniel Bilbao, Roger M. Leblanc, Jonathan H. Schatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


New treatments are needed to address persistent unmet clinical needs for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Overexpression of transferrin receptor 1 (TFR1) is common across cancer and permits cell-surface targeting of specific therapies in preclinical and clinical studies of various solid tumors. Here, we developed novel nanocarrier delivery of chemotherapy via TFR1-mediated endocytosis, assessing this target for the first time in DLBCL. Analysis of published datasets showed novel association of increased TFR1 expression with high-risk DLBCL cases. Carbon–nitride dots (CND) are emerging nanoparticles with excellent in vivo stability and distribution and are adaptable to covalent conjugation with multiple substrates. In vitro, linking doxorubicin (Dox) and transferrin (TF) to CND (CND–Dox–TF, CDT) was 10–100 times more potent than Dox against DLBCL cell lines. Gain- and loss-of-function studies and fluorescent confocal microscopy confirmed dependence of these effects on TFR1-mediated endocytosis. In contrast with previous therapeutics directly linking Dox and TF, cytotoxicity of CDT resulted from nuclear entry by Dox, promoting double-stranded DNA breaks and apoptosis. CDT proved safe to administer in vivo, and when incorporated into standard frontline chemoimmunotherapy in place of Dox, it improved overall survival by controlling patient-derived xenograft tumors with greatly reduced host toxicities. Nanocarrier-mediated Dox delivery to cell-surface TFR1, therefore, warrants optimization as a potential new therapeutic option in DLBCL. Significance: Targeted nanoparticle delivery of doxorubicin chemotherapy via the TRF1 receptor presents a new opportunity against high-risk DLBCL tumors using potency and precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-775
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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