• biodegradable polymers;
  • cancer therapy;
  • drug conjugates;
  • nanomedicine;
  • polyphosphoesters


Polyphosphoesters with repeating phosphoester linkages in the backbone can be easily functionalized, are biodegradable and potentially biocompatible, and may be potential candidates as polymer carriers of drug conjugates. Here, the efficacy of a polyphosphoester drug conjugate as an anticancer agent in vivo is assessed for the first time. With controlled synthesis, doxorubicin conjugated to poly(ethylene glycol)-block-polyphosphoester (PPEH–DOX) via labile hydrazone bonds form spherical nanoparticles in aqueous solution with an average diameter of ≈60 nm. These nanoparticles are effectively internalized by MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and release the conjugated doxorubicin in response to the intracellular pH of endosomes and lysosomes, resulting in significant antiproliferative activity in cancer cells. Compared with free doxorubicin injection, PPEH–DOX injection exhibits much longer circulation behavior in the plasma of mice and leads to enhanced drug accumulation in tumor cells. In an MDA-MB-231 xenograft murine model, inhibition of tumor growth with systemic delivery of PPEH–DOX nanoparticles is more pronounced compared with free doxorubicin injection, suggesting the potential of polyphosphoesters as carriers of drug conjugates in cancer therapy.