Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences

First Advisor

Mamoun M. Alhamadsheh

First Committee Member

Miki S. Park

Second Committee Member

Jesika S. Faridi

Third Committee Member

Wade A. Russu

Fourth Committee Member

Qinliang Zhao


The hydrophobicity of many chemotherapeutic agents usually results in their nonselective passive distribution into healthy cells and organs causing collateral toxicity. Ligand-targeted drugs (LTDs) are a promising class of targeted anticancer agents. The hydrophilicity of the targeting ligands in LTDs limits its nonselective passive tissue distribution and toxicity to healthy cells. In addition, the small size of LTDs allows for better tumor penetration, especially in the case of solid tumors. However, the short circulation half-life of LTDs, due to their hydrophilicity and small size, remains a significant challenge for achieving their full therapeutic potential. Therefore, extending the circulation half-life of targeted chemotherapeutic agents while maintaining their hydrophilicity and small size will represent a significant advance towards effective and safe cancer treatment. Here, we present a new approach for enhancing the safety and efficacy of targeted chemotherapeutic agents. By endowing hydrophobic chemotherapeutic agents with a targeting moiety and a hydrophilic small molecule that binds reversibly to the serum protein transthyretin, we generated small hydrophilic drug conjugates that displayed enhanced circulation half-life in rodents and selectivity to cancer cells. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a successful approach that maintains the small size and hydrophilicity of targeted anticancer agents containing hydrophobic payloads, while at the same time extending their circulation half-life. This was demonstrated by the superior in vivo efficacy and lower toxicity of our conjugates in xenograft mouse models of metastatic prostate cancer.





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