Folate-mediated delivery of macromolecular anticancer therapeutic agents

Yingjuan Lu, Philip S. Low

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

703 Scopus citations

Abstract

The receptor for folic acid constitutes a useful target for tumor-specific drug delivery, primarily because: (1) it is upregulated in many human cancers, including malignancies of the ovary, brain, kidney, breast, myeloid cells and lung, (2) access to the folate receptor in those normal tissues that express it can be severely limited due to its location on the apical (externally-facing) membrane of polarized epithelia, and (3) folate receptor density appears to increase as the stage/grade of the cancer worsens. Thus, cancers that are most difficult to treat by classical methods may be most easily targeted with folate-linked therapeutics. To exploit these peculiarities of folate receptor expression, folic acid has been linked to both low molecular weight drugs and macromolecular complexes as a means of targeting the attached molecules to malignant cells. Conjugation of folic acid to macromolecules has been shown to enhance their delivery to folate receptor-expressing cancer cells in vitro in almost all situations tested. Folate-mediated macromolecular targeting in vivo has, however, yielded only mixed results, largely because of problems with macromolecule penetration of solid tumors. Nevertheless, prominent examples do exist where folate targeting has significantly improved the outcome of a macromolecule-based therapy, leading to complete cures of established tumors in many cases. This review presents a brief mechanistic background of folate-targeted macromolecular therapeutics and then summarizes the successes and failures observed with each major application of the technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-693
Number of pages19
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
Volume54
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 13 2002

Keywords

  • Folate receptor
  • Gene therapy vectors
  • Immunotherapeutic agents
  • Liposomal therapeutic agents
  • Macromolecular drug targeting
  • Prodrug-activating enzymes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science

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