Pharmacological and physical vessel modulation strategies to improve EPR-mediated drug targeting to tumors☆
The performance of nanomedicine formulations depends on the Enhanced Permeability and Retention (EPR) effect. Prototypic nanomedicine-based drug delivery systems, such as liposomes, polymers and micelles, aim to exploit the EPR effect to accumulate at pathological sites, to thereby improve the balance between drug efficacy and toxicity. Thus far, however, tumor-targeted nanomedicines have not yet managed to achieve convincing therapeutic results, at least not in large cohorts of patients. This is likely mostly due to high inter- and intra-patient heterogeneity in EPR. Besides developing (imaging) biomarkers to monitor and predict EPR, another strategy to address this heterogeneity is the establishment of vessel modulation strategies to homogenize and improve EPR. Over the years, several pharmacological and physical co-treatments have been evaluated to improve EPR-mediated tumor targeting. These include pharmacological strategies, such as vessel permeabilization, normalization, disruption and promotion, as well as physical EPR enhancement via hyperthermia, radiotherapy, sonoporation and phototherapy. In the present manuscript, we summarize exemplary studies showing that pharmacological and physical vessel modulation strategies can be used to improve tumor-targeted drug delivery, and we discuss how these advanced combination regimens can be optimally employed to enhance the (pre-) clinical performance of tumor-targeted nanomedicines.