Safe approaches for camptothecin delivery: Structural analogues and nanomedicines

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Twenty-(S)-camptothecin is a strongly cytotoxic molecule with excellent antitumor activity over a wide spectrum of human cancers. However, the direct formulation is limited by its poor water solubility, low plasmatic stability and severe toxicity, which currently limits its clinical use. As a consequence, two strategies have been developed in order to achieve safe and efficient delivery of camptothecin to target cells: structural analogues and nanomedicines. In this review, we summarize recent advances in the design, synthesis and development of camptothecin molecular derivatives and supramolecular vehicles, following a systematic classification according to structure-activity relationships (structural analogues) or chemical nature (nanomedicines). A series of organic, inorganic and hybrid materials are presented as nanoplatforms to overcome camptothecin restrictions in administration, biodistribution, pharmacokinetics and toxicity. Nanocarriers which respond to a variety of stimuli endogenously (e.g., pH, redox potential, enzyme activity) or exogenously (e.g., magnetic field, light, temperature, ultrasound) seem the best positioned therapeutic materials for optimal spatial and temporal control over drug release. The main goal of this review is to be used as a source of relevant literature for others interested in the field of camptothecin-based therapeutics. To this end, final remarks on the most important formulations currently under clinical trial are provided.

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