Front. Chem., 25 August 2014 |

Nanomedicines for cancer therapy: state-of-the-art and limitations to pre-clinical studies that hinder future developments

  • 1Institute for Nanobiotechnology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • 2Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • 3Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

The ability to efficiently deliver a drug or gene to a tumor site is dependent on a wide range of factors including circulation time, interactions with the mononuclear phagocyte system, extravasation from circulation at the tumor site, targeting strategy, release from the delivery vehicle, and uptake in cancer cells. Nanotechnology provides the possibility of creating delivery systems where the design constraints are decoupled, allowing new approaches for reducing the unwanted side effects of systemic delivery, increasing tumor accumulation, and improving efficacy. The physico-chemical properties of nanoparticle-based delivery platforms introduce additional complexity associated with pharmacokinetics, tumor accumulation, and biodistribution. To assess the impact of nanoparticle-based delivery systems, we first review the design strategies and pharmacokinetics of FDA-approved nanomedicines. Next we review nanomedicines under development, summarizing the range of nanoparticle platforms, strategies for targeting, and pharmacokinetics. We show how the lack of uniformity in preclinical trials prevents systematic comparison and hence limits advances in the field.

Keywords: drug delivery systems, nanoparticles, targeted therapy, pharmacokinetics, tumor accumulation

Citation: Dawidczyk CM, Russell LM and Searson PC (2014) Nanomedicines for cancer therapy: state-of-the-art and limitations to pre-clinical studies that hinder future developments. Front. Chem. 2:69. doi: 10.3389/fchem.2014.00069

Received: 20 June 2014; Paper pending published: 03 July 2014;
Accepted: 05 August 2014; Published online: 25 August 2014.

Edited by:

João Conde, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Reviewed by:

Yanli Zhao, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Fernando Novio, Institut Catalá de Nanociència i Nanotecnologia, Spain

Copyright © 2014 Dawidczyk, Russell and Searson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Peter C. Searson, Johns Hopkins University, 100 Croft Hall, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA e-mail:

These authors have contributed equally to this work.