The battle of “nano” paclitaxel

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Paclitaxel (PTX) is one of the three most widely used chemotherapeutic agents, together with doxorubicin and cisplatin, and is first or second line treatment for several types of cancers. In 2000, Taxol, the conventional formulation of PTX, became the best-selling cancer drug of all time with annual sales of 1.6 billion. In 2005, the introduction of the albumin-based formulation of PTX, known as Abraxane, ended Taxol's monopoly of the PTX market. Abraxane's ability to push the Taxol innovator and generic formulations aside attracted fierce competition amongst competitors worldwide to develop their own unique, new and improved formulation of PTX. At this time there are at least 18 companies focused on pre-clinical and/or clinical development of nano-formulations of PTX. These pharmaceutical companies are investing substantial capital to capture a share of the lucrative global PTX market. It is hoped that any formulation that dominates the market will result in tangible benefits to patients in terms of both survival and quality of life. Given all of this activity, here we address the question: Who is going to win the battle of “nano” paclitaxel?Graphical abstractCompanies around the world are exploring the benefits of pharmaceutical nanotechnology (e.g. liposomes and micelles) for delivery of the hydrophobic anti-cancer drug paclitaxel (PTX). These PTX formulations are being evaluated for treatment of pancreatic, small cell lung, breast, ovarian, bladder, gastric, and other types of cancer.HighlightsIn 2000, Taxol became the best selling cancer drug of all time with annual sales of 1.6 billionAbraxane ended Taxol's monopoly of the paclitaxel market and is poised to reach annual sales of 1 billion this yearAbraxane's ability to displace Taxol encouraged companies to develop their own paclitaxel nano-formulationsA comprehensive analysis of these new formulations demonstrates that they are largely clinically equivalent to AbraxaneAt this time there is significant room for development of a superior nano-formulation of paclitaxel

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