Cancer is a disease that affects millions of people across the globe every year. The World Health Organization estimated that more than 10 million people developed a malignant tumor and more than 6.5 million people died from this disease during the year 2000.1 In the United States, cancer is the second cause of deaths from disease after heart disease, accounting for more than half a million deaths every year. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) cancer statistics, the overall cost for cancer for the United States in 2004 was $189.8 billion: $69.4 billion for direct medical costs, $16.9 billion for indirect morbidity costs, and $103.5 billion for indirect mortality costs.2 Furthermore, while mortality rates of other major chronic diseases, such as heart and cerebro-vascular disease, decreased significantly in the past half-century, cancer mortality rates have remained approximately constant.2 This is a troubling fact because it suggests that recent detection and treatment options have not been able to improve mortality rates substantially.

Research in the past decade has focused on using unique characteristics of cancer cells and the vasculature surrounding those cells to deliver imaging agents, chemotherapeutic drugs, gene therapy, and other active agents directly and selectively to cancerous tissues. Many of these new formulations (described elsewhere in this volume) are liposomes, prodrugs, polymer conjugates, micelles, and dendritic systems. This chapter will concentrate on polymeric nanoparticles that have been studied as targeted systems for treatment and detection of cancer.

Diabetes Sustenance

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