Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Tonglei Li

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul M. Bummer


The majority of pharmacologically active chemotherapeutics are poorly water soluble. Solubilization enhancement by the utilization of organic solvents often leads to adverse side effects. Nanoparticle-based cancer therapy, which is passively targeted to the tumor tissue via the enhanced permeation and retention effect, has been vastly developed in recent years. Nanocrystals, which exist as crystalline and carry nearly 100% drug loading, has been explored for delivering antineoplastic agents. Additionally, the hybrid nanocrystal concept offers a novel and simple way to integrate imaging agents into the drug crystals, enabling the achievement of theranostics. The overall objective of this dissertation is to formulate both pure and hybrid nanocrystals, evaluate their performance in vitro and in vivo, and investigate the extent of tissue distribution and tumor accumulation in a murine model. Pure and hybrid nanocrystals of several model drugs, including paclitaxel (PTX), camptothecin, and ZSTK474, were precipitated by the antisolvent method in the absence of stabilizer, and their size was further minimized by homogenization. The nanocrystals of PTX, which is the focus of the study, had particle size of approximately 200 nm and close-to-neutral surface charge. Depending on the cell type, PTX nanocrystals exerted different level of cytotoxicity. In human colon and breast cancer xenograft models, nanocrystals yielded similar efficacy as the conventional formulation, Taxol, at a dose of 20 mg/kg, yet induced a reduced toxicity. Biodistribution study revealed that 3H-PTX nanocrystals were sequestered rapidly by the macrophages upon intravenous injection. Yet, apparent toxicity was not observed even after four weekly injections. The sequestered nanocrystals were postulated to be released slowly into the blood circulation and reached the tumor. Tritium-labeled-taxol, in contrast, was distributed extensively to all the major organs, inducing systemic toxicity as observed in significant body weight loss. The biodistribution results obtained from radioactive analysis and whole-body optical imaging was compared. To some degree, the correlation was present, but divergence in the quantitative result, due to nanocrystal integrity and limitations associated with the optical modality, existed. Despite their promising properties, nanocrystal suspensions must be securely stabilized by stealth polymers in order to minimize opsonization, extend blood-circulation time, and efficiently target the tumor.