Smart Nanotherapeutic Targeting of Tumor Vasculature

Zifu Li, Chunzhi Di, Suping Li, Xiangliang Yang, Guangjun Nie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


ConspectusThe past decades have witnessed the development of a field dedicated to targeting tumor vasculature for cancer therapy. In contrast to conventional chemotherapeutics that need to penetrate into tumor tissues for killing tumor cells, the agents targeting tumor vascular system have two major advantages: direct contact with vascular endothelial cells or the blood and less possibility to induce drug resistance because of high gene stability of endothelial cells. More specifically, various angiogenesis inhibitors (AIs) and vascular disrupting agents (VDAs) that block tumor blood supply to inhibit tumor progression, some of which have been applied clinically, have been described. However, off-target effects and high effective doses limit the utility of these formulations in cancer patients. Thus, new strategies with improved therapeutic efficacy and safety are needed for tumor vessel targeting therapy. With the burgeoning developments in nanotechnology, smart nanotherapeutics now offer unprecedented potential for targeting tumor vasculature. Based on specific structural and functional features of the tumor vasculature, a number of different nanoscale delivery systems have been proposed for cancer therapy. In this Account, we summarize several distinct strategies to modulate tumor vasculature with various smart nanotherapeutics for safe and effective tumor therapy developed by our research programs.Inspired by the blood coagulation cascade, we generated nanoparticle-mediated tumor vessel infarction strategies that selectively block tumor blood supply to starve the tumor to death. By specifically delivering thrombin loaded DNA nanorobots (Nanorobot-Th) into tumor vessels, an intratumoral thrombosis is triggered to induce vascular infarction and, ultimately, tumor necrosis. Mimicking the coagulation cascade, a smart polymeric nanogel achieves permanent and peripheral embolization of liver tumors. Considering the critical role of platelets in maintaining tumor vessel integrity, a hybrid (PLP-D-R) nanoparticle selectively depleting tumor-associated platelets (TAP) to boost tumor vessel permeability was developed for enhancing intratumoral drug accumulation. In addition, benefiting from a better understanding of the molecular and cellular underpinnings of vascular normalization, several tumor acidity responsive nanotherapeutics, encapsulating therapeutic peptides, and small interfering RNA were developed to correct the abnormal features of the tumor vasculature. This made the tumor vessels more efficient for drug delivery. While we are still exploring the mechanisms of action of these novel nanoformulations, we expect that the strategies summarized here will offer a promising platform to design effective next-generation nanotherapeutics against cancer and facilitate the clinical translation of smart nanotherapeutics that target tumor vasculature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2703-2712
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 17 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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