- N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA)-based copolymers have been shown to be efficient carriers for anticancer drugs because of their versatile chemistry and good biocompatibility. As demonstrated with hepatocytes, targeting efficacy of anticancer drugs could be further improved when the drug (doxorubicin) was conjugated to HPMA copolymers with biorecognisable groups, such as simple carbohydrates. The present study was devised to learn whether the cluster (multivalent) construction of carbohydrate residues could improve the targeting capability of HPMA copolymer-doxorubicin (DOX) conjugates towards human colon adenocarcinoma cells. DOX was linked via a lysosomally degradable tetrapeptide sequence to HPMA copolymers bearing galactosamine (GalN), lactose (Lac), or multivalent galactose residues (TriGal) to produce targetable polymeric drug carriers. The effect of the type of sugar moiety and its three-dimensional cluster arrangement on biorecognition by three human colon-adenocarcinoma cell lines was studied. The role of galectin-3 in the biorecognition of HPMA copolymer conjugates was explored. Biorecognition of the targetable (glycoside-bearing) conjugates decreased their IC(50) doses in comparison to the non-targetable (non-glycosylated) conjugates. The biorecognition of the TriGal-containing HPMA copolymer-doxorubicin conjugate by the cells was superior with concomitant decrease of its IC(50) doses. It is suggested that the increased cytotoxicity of the glycosylated HPMA-copolymer-DOX conjugates toward human colon-adenocarcinoma cells was caused by their biorecognition and effective internalisation via receptor-mediated endocytosis. All three human colon adenocarcinoma cell lines tested, Colo-205, SW-480 and SW-620, expressed the galectin-3 protein and the galectin-3-specific RNA. However, contrary to expectation, Colo-205 cells did not express a detectable amount of galectin-3 on the cell surface. This suggests that the binding of the glycoside-bearing HPMA copolymer-DOX conjugates to the cells was mediated not only by galectin-3. We conclude that targeting of the anticancer agent, doxorubicin, using HPMA copolymer conjugates bearing multivalent galactoside residues can improve their cytotoxicity.