Sorafenib is one of the few effective first-line drugs approved for the treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the development of drug resistance is common among individuals with HCC. Thus, there is an urgent need to solve this problem.
Recent evidence indicated that the anticancer activity of sorafenib mainly relies on the induction of ferroptosis. In our study, genes that suppress ferroptosis, especially GPX4 and DHODH, were enriched in sorafenib-resistant cells and primary tissues and were associated with poor prognosis of HCC patients who received sorafenib treatment. Therefore, silencing GPX4 and DHODH might be a novel and effective strategy to overcome sorafenib resistance. Here, a novel ferroptosis inducer comprising a multiplex small interfering RNA (multi-siRNA) capable of simultaneously silencing GPX4 and DHODH was created. Then, exosomes with high multi-siRNA loading and HCC-specific targeting were established by fusing the SP94 peptide and the N-terminal RNA recognition motif (RRM) of U1-A with the exosomal membrane protein Lamp2b. The results from the in vitro and in vivo experiments indicate that this tumor-targeting nanodelivery system (ExoSP94−lamp2b−RRM-multi-siRNA) could enhance sorafenib-induced ferroptosis and overcome sorafenib resistance, which might open a new avenue for clinically overcoming sorafenib resistance.
We designed HCC-targeted exosomes (ExoSP94−Lamp2b−RRM) that can deliver a novel ferroptosis inducer. Our data show that ExoSP94−lamp2b−RRM-multi-siRNA could enhance sorafenib-induced ferroptosis by silencing GPX4 and DHODH expression and consequently increase HCC sensitivity to sorafenib. This is the first study to describe the use of engineered exosomes to overcome acquired sorafenib resistance with respect to ferroptosis.