Drug targeting to tumors: principles, pitfalls and (pre-) clinical progress

Twan Gerardus Gertudis Maria Lammers, F. Kiessling, W.E. Hennink, Gerrit Storm

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Abstract Many different systems and strategies have been evaluated for drug targeting to tumors over the years. Routinely used systems include liposomes, polymers, micelles, nanoparticles and antibodies, and examples of strategies are passive drug targeting, active drug targeting to cancer cells, active drug targeting to endothelial cells and triggered drug delivery. Significant progress has been made in this area of research both at the preclinical and at the clinical level, and a number of (primarily passively tumor-targeted) nanomedicine formulations have been approved for clinical use. Significant progress has also been made with regard to better understanding the (patho-) physiological principles of drug targeting to tumors. This has led to the identification of several important pitfalls in tumor-targeted drug delivery, including I) overinterpretation of the EPR effect; II) poor tumor and tissue penetration of nanomedicines; III) misunderstanding of the potential usefulness of active drug targeting; IV) irrational formulation design, based on materials which are too complex and not broadly applicable; V) insufficient incorporation of nanomedicine formulations in clinically relevant combination regimens; VI) negligence of the notion that the highest medical need relates to metastasis, and not to solid tumor treatment; VII) insufficient integration of non-invasive imaging techniques and theranostics, which could be used to personalize nanomedicine-based therapeutic interventions; and VIII) lack of (efficacy analyses in) proper animal models, which are physiologically more relevant and more predictive for the clinical situation. These insights strongly suggest that besides making ever more nanomedicine formulations, future efforts should also address some of the conceptual drawbacks of drug targeting to tumors, and that strategies should be developed to overcome these shortcomings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-187
JournalJournal of controlled release
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • METIS-292678
  • IR-83084


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