Sunitinib malate-loaded biodegradable microspheres for the prevention of corneal neovascularization in rats

Jin Yang, Lixia Luo, Yumin Oh, Tuo Meng, Guihong Chai, Shiyu Xia, David Emmert, Bing Wang, Charles G. Eberhart, Seulki Lee, Walter J. Stark, Laura M. Ensign, Justin Hanes, Qingguo Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Corneal neovascularization (NV) predisposes patients to compromised corneal transparency and visional acuity. Sunitinib malate (Sunb-malate) targeting against multiple receptor tyrosine kinases, exerts potent antiangiogenesis. However, the rapid clearance of Sunb-malate eye drops administered through topical instillation limits its therapeutic efficacy and poses a challenge for potential patient compliance. Sunb-malate, the water-soluble form of sunitinib, was shown to have higher intraocular penetration through transscleral diffusion following subconjunctival (SCT) injection in comparison to its sunitinib free base formulation. However, it is difficult to load highly water-soluble drugs and achieve sustained drug release. We developed Sunb-malate loaded poly(D,L-lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microspheres (Sunb-malate MS) with a particle size of approximately 15 μm and a drug loading of 7 wt%. Sunb-malate MS sustained the drug release for 30 days under the in vitro infinite sink condition. Subconjunctival (SCT) injection of Sunb-malate MS provided a prolonged ocular drug retention and did not cause ocular toxicity at a dose of 150 μg of active agent. Sunb-malate MS following SCT injection more effectively suppressed the suture-induced corneal NV than either Sunb-malate free drug or the placebo MS. Local sustained release of Sunb-malate through the SCT injection of Sunb-malate MS mitigated the proliferation of vascular endothelial cells and the recruitment of mural cells into the cornea. Moreover, the gene upregulation of proangiogenic factors induced by the pathological process was greatly neutralized by SCT injection of Sunb-malate MS. Our findings provide a sustained release platform for local delivery of tyrosine kinase inhibitors to treat corneal NV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-466
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
StatePublished - Nov 10 2020


  • Controlled drug release
  • PLGA
  • Subconjunctival injection
  • Trans-scleral delivery
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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