Pancreatic cancer (PC) is an aggressive form of cancer with dense stroma and immune-suppressive microenvironment, which are the major barriers for treatment. To address such barriers, this study aimed to develop a sequential receptor-mediated mixed-charge targeted delivery system for PC based on 2-(3-((S)-5-amino-1-carboxypentyl)-ureido) pentanedioate (ACUPA) and triphenylphosphonium (TPP) modified nanomicelles containing ingenol-3-mebutate (I3A), which was named ACUPA/TPP-I3A or ACUPA/TPP-I3A. ACUPA/TPP-I3A induced immunogenic cell death (ICD), which significantly increased the number of tumor-infiltrating T lymphocytes, activated adaptive immunity, and achieved superior survival time. I3A, a novel anticancer drug, could induce PC cell necrosis to release damage-associated molecular patterns, thereby activating adaptive immunity. With certain ratios of negatively (ACUPA) and positively (TPP) charged ligands, ACUPA/TPP-I3A acquired a negative charge in plasma (pH 7.4, to inhibit aggregation and uptake in the circulation) and was neutral in the acidic tumor microenvironment (pH 5.0-6.0, to overcome electrostatic hindrances and facilitate transcytosis). Furthermore, neovascular endothelium-specific ACUPA enabled rapid transcytosis of ACUPA/TPP-I3A across tumor vessel walls, entering into endosome/lysosomes (pH 4.5-5.0, its charge became positive and exhibited lysosome escape). Then, ACUPA/TPP-I3A selectively targeted mitochondria, which correlated with TPP-mediated effect. Finally, I3A was released to induce ICD that activated adaptive immunity and achieved superior survival time. Therefore, reshaping of the tumor microenvironment and potentiating antitumor immunity using ACUPA/TPP-I3A constituted a novel strategy to prolong the survival time.
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