Nano-sized drug carriers: Extravasation, intratumoral distribution, and their modeling

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Navigating intratumoral drug distribution has proven to be one of the most challenging aspects of drug delivery. The barriers are significant and varied; increased diffusional distances, elevated interstitial fluid pressure, regions of dense extracellular matrix and high cell density, and overall heterogeneity. Such a long list imposes significant requirements on nano-sized carriers. Unfortunately, other capabilities are eclipsed by the distribution requirements. A drug can do no good until it reaches its target. Numerous strategies to improve drug distribution have been developed, taking account of various unique characteristics of solid tumors, including some mechanisms that are still not fully understood. Most of these strategies were from small animal tumor models which are our primary tool for understanding cancer physiology. The small animal tumor model is the most versatile and effective means of understanding tumor transport, but its prevalence belies some of its weaknesses. Tumors grown under lab conditions are developed much more quickly than naturally developed cancers, potentially impacting tumor heterogeneity, blood vessel development, extracellular matrix organization, cell diversity, and many other features of structure and physiology that may impact transport. These problems come in addition to the difficulties of making precise measurements within a living tumor. Resolving these problems is best done by improving our analysis methods, and by finding complementary models that can clarify and expound the details. In this review, we will first discuss some of the strategies employed to improve transport and then highlight some of the new models that have recently been developed in the Bae lab and how they may aid in the study of tumor transport in the future.

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