Cancer Therapy

Cancer is defined by two characteristics: uncontrolled cell growth and the ability to invade, metastasize, and spread to distant sites. Despite several modes of therapy—such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiotherapy—the therapy of cancer remains a challenge. Systemic chemotherapy is the widely adopted treatment for the disseminated malignant disease, while recent progress in drug therapy has resulted in curative chemotherapeutic regimens for several tumors. However, chronic administration of anti-cancer drugs leads to severe systemic toxicity. To improve the therapy with these anti-cancer agents and reduce this associated toxicity, drug delivery systems have been introduced to deliver the drugs directly to the site of interest.1 Normal cells are also susceptible to the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapeutic agents and exhibit a dose response effect, but the response curve is shifted relative to that of malignant cells. Proliferative normal tissues such as bone marrow and gastrointestinal mucosa are generally the most susceptible to chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Because chemotherapy has been widely adopted for the treatment of cancer, several chemotherapeutic agents with potential anti-cancer activity have been introduced.

Several drug delivery systems facilitate effective chemotherapy with the anti-cancer agents. These systems include liposomes, microparticles, supramolecular biovectors, polymeric micelles, and nanoparticles. Although research on targeted therapeutic systems for cancer therapy has not significantly contributed to their commercialization for human application, the introduction into the market of products like doxorubicin long-circulating liposomes (Doxil) and Polifeprosan-20 with carmustine (BCNU, Gliadel Wafer) for cancer therapy has renewed interest in the field of targeted drug delivery to cancers.2

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