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Front Oncol. 2013 Jun 10;3:154. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.00154. eCollection 2013.

The tumor microenvironment and strategies to improve drug distribution.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto , Toronto, ON , Canada.


The microenvironment within tumors is composed of a heterogeneous mixture of cells with varying levels of nutrients and oxygen. Differences in oxygen content result in survival or compensatory mechanisms within tumors that may favor a more malignant or lethal phenotype. Cells that are rapidly proliferating are richly nourished and preferentially located close to blood vessels. Chemotherapy can target and kill cells that are adjacent to the vasculature, while cells that reside farther away are often not exposed to adequate amounts of drug and may survive and repopulate following treatment. The characteristics of the tumor microenvironment can be manipulated in order to design more effective therapies. In this review, we describe important features of the tumor microenvironment and discuss strategies whereby drug distribution and activity may be improved.


drug distribution; drug penetration; hypoxia-activated pro-drugs; pharmacodynamic markers; solid tumor; tumor microenvironment

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