• Alkannin;
  • Antitumor activity;
  • Cancer;
  • Controlled release;
  • Naphthoquinones


Alkannin and shikonin are naturally occurring hydroxynaphthoquinones with a well-established spectrum of wound healing, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities. Recently, extensive scientific effort has been focused on their effectiveness on several tumors and mechanism(s) of antitumor activity. Liposomes have been proved as adequate drug carriers offering significant advantages over conventional formulations, such as controlled release and targeted drug delivery, leading to the appearance of several liposomal formulations in the market, some of them concerning anticancer drugs. The aim of the present study was to prepare shikonin-loaded liposomes for the first time in order to enhance shikonin therapeutic index. An optimized technique based on the thin film hydration method was developed and liposomes characterization was performed in terms of their physicochemical characteristics, drug entrapment efficiency, and release profile. Results indicated the successful incorporation of shikonin into liposomes, using both 1,2-dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine and egg phosphatidylcholine lipids. Liposomes presented good physicochemical characteristics, high entrapment efficiency and satisfactory in vitro release profile. In vitro cytotoxicity of liposomes was additionally tested against three human cancer cell lines (breast, glioma, and non-small cell lung cancer) showing a moderate growth inhibitory activity.

Practical applications: Shikonin is a naturally occurring hydroxynaphthoquinone and extensive scientific research (in vitro, in vivo, and clinical trials) has been conducted during the last years, focusing on its effectiveness on several tumors and mechanism(s) of antitumor action. The purpose of this work was to prepare and characterize shikonin-loaded liposomes as a new drug delivery system for shikonin. Liposomal formulations provide significant advantages over conventional dosage forms, such as controlled release and targeted drug delivery for anticancer agents. Thus, liposomes could reduce shikonin's side effects, enhance selectivity to cancer cells and protect shikonin from internal biotransformations and instability matters (oxidization and polymerization). Furthermore, liposomal delivery helps overcome the low aqueous solubility of shikonin, which is the major barrier to its oral and internal administration, since it cannot be dissolved and further absorbed from the receptor.