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Mol Membr Biol. 2010 Oct;27(7):353-63. doi: 10.3109/09687688.2010.515950. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

Enzyme-triggered nanomedicine: drug release strategies in cancer therapy.

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  • 1Technical University of Denmark, DTU Nanotech, Department of Micro- and Nanotechnology, Roskilde, Denmark.


Nanomedicine as a field has emerged from the early success of nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems, in particular for treatment of cancer, and the advances made in nano- and biotechnology over the past decade. A prerequisite for nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems to be effective is that the drug payload is released at the target site. A large number of drug release strategies have been proposed that can be classified into certain areas. The simplest and most successful strategy so far, probably due to relative simplicity, is based on utilizing certain physico-chemical characteristics of drugs to obtain a slow drug leakage from the formulations after accumulation in the cancerous site. However, this strategy is only applicable to a relatively small range of drugs and cannot be applied to biologicals. Many advanced drug release strategies have therefore been investigated. Such strategies include utilization of heat, light and ultrasound sensitive systems and in particular pH sensitive systems where the lower pH in endosomes induces drug release. Highly interesting are enzyme sensitive systems where over-expressed disease-associated enzymes are utilized to trigger drug release. The enzyme-based strategies are particularly interesting as they require no prior knowledge of the tumour localization. The basis of this review is an evaluation of the current status of drug delivery strategies focused on triggered drug release by disease-associated enzymes. We limit ourselves to reviewing the liposome field, but the concepts and conclusions are equally important for polymer-based systems.

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