Cancer active targeting by nanoparticles: a comprehensive review of literature

Remon Bazak, Mohamad Houri, Samar El Achy, Serag Kamel, Tamer Refaat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

475 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cancer is one of the leading causes of death, and thus, the scientific community has but great efforts to improve cancer management. Among the major challenges in cancer management is development of agents that can be used for early diagnosis and effective therapy. Conventional cancer management frequently lacks accurate tools for detection of early tumors and has an associated risk of serious side effects of chemotherapeutics. The need to optimize therapeutic ratio as the difference with which a treatment affects cancer cells versus healthy tissues lead to idea that it is needful to have a treatment that could act a the “magic bullet”—recognize cancer cells only. Nanoparticle platforms offer a variety of potentially efficient solutions for development of targeted agents that can be exploited for cancer diagnosis and treatment. There are two ways by which targeting of nanoparticles can be achieved, namely passive and active targeting. Passive targeting allows for the efficient localization of nanoparticles within the tumor microenvironment. Active targeting facilitates the active uptake of nanoparticles by the tumor cells themselves. Methods: Relevant English electronic databases and scientifically published original articles and reviews were systematically searched for the purpose of this review. Results: In this report, we present a comprehensive review of literatures focusing on the active targeting of nanoparticles to cancer cells, including antibody and antibody fragment-based targeting, antigen-based targeting, aptamer-based targeting, as well as ligand-based targeting. Conclusion: To date, the optimum targeting strategy has not yet been announced, each has its own advantages and disadvantages even though a number of them have found their way for clinical application. Perhaps, a combination of strategies can be employed to improve the precision of drug delivery, paving the way for a more effective personalized therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-784
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 11 2015


  • Active targeting
  • Cancer
  • Nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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