U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine (2011) pp. 1-10; doi:10.1016/j.nano.2011.06.003


Hypersensitivity reactions to liposomal drugs, often observed with Doxil and AmBisome, can arise from activation of the complement (C) system by phospholipid bilayers. To understand the mechanism of this adverse immune reaction called C activation-related pseudoallergy (CARPA), we analyzed the relationship among liposome features, C activation in human serum in vitro, and liposome-induced cardiovascular distress in pigs, a model for human CARPA. Among the structural variables (surface charge, presence of saturated, unsaturated, and PEGylated phospholipids, and cisplatin vs. doxorubicin inside liposomes), high negative surface charge and the presence of doxorubicin were significant contributors to reactogenicity both in vitro and in vivo. Morphological analysis suggested that the effect of doxorubicin might be indirect, via distorting the sphericity of liposomes and, if leaked, causing aggregation. The parallelism among C activation, cardiopulmonary reactions in pigs, and high rate of hypersensitivity reactions to Doxil and AmBisome in humans strengthens the utility of the applied tests in predicting the risk of CARPA.