Clinical cancer nanomedicine

Joy Wolfram, Mauro Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

339 Scopus citations


Nanotechnology offers new solutions for the development of cancer therapeutics that display improved efficacy and safety. Although several nanotherapeutics have received clinical approval, the most promising nanotechnology applications for patients still lie ahead. Nanoparticles display unique transport, biological, optical, magnetic, electronic, and thermal properties that are not apparent on the molecular or macroscale, and can be utilized for therapeutic purposes. These characteristics arise because nanoparticles are in the same size range as the wavelength of light and display large surface area to volume ratios. The large size of nanoparticles compared to conventional chemotherapeutic agents or biological macromolecule drugs also enables incorporation of several supportive components in addition to active pharmaceutical ingredients. These components can facilitate solubilization, protection from degradation, sustained release, immunoevasion, tissue penetration, imaging, targeting, and triggered activation. Nanoparticles are also processed differently in the body compared to conventional drugs. Specifically, nanoparticles display unique hemodynamic properties and biodistribution profiles. Notably, the interactions that occur at the bio-nano interface can be exploited for improved drug delivery. This review discusses successful clinically approved cancer nanodrugs as well as promising candidates in the pipeline. These nanotherapeutics are categorized according to whether they predominantly exploit multifunctionality, unique electromagnetic properties, or distinct transport characteristics in the body. Moreover, future directions in nanomedicine such as companion diagnostics, strategies for modifying the microenvironment, spatiotemporal nanoparticle transitions, and the use of extracellular vesicles for drug delivery are also explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-98
Number of pages14
JournalNano Today
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Drug delivery
  • Extracellular vesicle
  • Multifunctional
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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