Indexed on: 03 Aug '07Published on: 03 Aug '07Published in: Journal of drug targeting
Over the past two decades cancer has ascended the causes of human death to be number one or two in many nations world wide. A major limitation inherent to most conventional anticancer chemotherapeutic agents is their lack of tumor selectivity. One way to achieve selective drug targeting to solid tumors is to exploit abnormalities of tumor vasculature, namely, hypervascularisation; aberrant vascular architecture; extensive production of vascular permeability factors stimulating extravasation within tumor tissues; and lack of lymphatic drainage. Maeda and his colleagues have extensively studied tumor vascular abnormalities in terms of active and selective delivery of anticancer drugs to tumor tissues, notably defining the enhanced permeability and retention effect (EPR effect) of macromolecular drugs in solid tumors. Due to their large molecular size, nanosized macromolecular anticancer drugs administered intravenously (i.v.) escape renal clearance. Often they can not penetrate the tight endothelial junctions of normal blood vessels, but they can extravasate in tumour vasculature and become trapped in the tumor vicinity. With time the tumor concentration will build up reaching several folds higher than that of the plasma due to lack of efficient lymphatic drainage in solid tumor; an ideal application for EPR-based selective anticancer drug delivery. Establishing this principle hastened development of various polymer conjugates and polymeric micelles as well as multifunctional nanoparticles for targeted cancer chemotherapy. Indeed this selective high local concentration of nanosized anticancer drugs in tumor tissues has proven superior in therapeutic effect with minimal side effects in both preclinical and clinical settings. In this review the mechanisms and factors involved in the EPR effect, as well as the uniqueness of nanoscale drugs for tumor targeting through EPR effect, will be discussed in detail.