Drug penetration in solid tumours

Nat Rev Cancer. 2006 Aug;6(8):583-92. doi: 10.1038/nrc1893.


To be most effective anticancer drugs must penetrate tissue efficiently, reaching all the cancer cells that comprise the target population in a concentration sufficient to exert a therapeutic effect. Most research into the resistance of cancers to chemotherapy has concentrated on molecular mechanisms of resistance, whereas the role of limited drug distribution within tumours has been neglected. We summarize the evidence that indicates that the distribution of many anticancer drugs in tumour tissue is incomplete, and we suggest strategies that might be used either to improve drug penetration through tumour tissue or to select compounds based on their abilities to penetrate tissue, thereby increasing the therapeutic index.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Spheroids, Cellular
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents