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Targeted Nanodrugs for Cancer Therapy: Prospects and Challenges

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The recent advent of nanomedicine holds potential to revolutionize cancer therapy. This innovative discipline has paved the way for the emergence of a new class of drugs based on nanoengineered particles. These “nanodrugs” are designed to greatly enhance drug therapeutic indices. First-generation nanodrugs consisted of conventional anti-cancer drugs loaded into/onto nanoengineered particles (nanocarriers) devoid of targeting features (non-targeted nanodrugs). Non-targeted nanodrugs have provided the opportunity to carry large amounts of drugs, including poorly water-soluble and/or permeable drugs, to several types of tumors, improving the therapeutic index with respect to comparable free drugs. Although effective, the primary delivery mechanism of non-targeted nanodrugs was through passive tissue accumulation, due to pathophysiological differences between tumor-associated and healthy vessels, and through non-specific targeting of cell subsets, posing the danger of off-target binding and effects. Recently, the therapeutic indices of certain anti-cancer drugs were further improved by attaching targeting ligands to nanodrugs (targeted-nanodrugs). Targeted-nanodrugs selectively bind to cognate receptors expressed on target cells and enter cells more efficiently than non-targeted formulations. Although these advancements have been sufficiently beneficial to place targeted-nanodrugs into clinical development for use in cancer therapy, they also come at a price. The addition of ligands to drug-loaded nanocarriers often leads to additional synthesis steps and costs, and more complex biological performance relative to ligand-devoid nanodrugs. Here, we will discuss the benefits and challenges facing the addition of targeting features to nanodrugs for cancer therapy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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  • Journal for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (JNN) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal with a wide-ranging coverage, consolidating research activities in all areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into a single and unique reference source. JNN is the first cross-disciplinary journal to publish original full research articles, rapid communications of important new scientific and technological findings, timely state-of-the-art reviews with author's photo and short biography, and current research news encompassing the fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of science, engineering and medicine.
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