Nanotechnology applications in cancer

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2007;9:257-88. doi: 10.1146/annurev.bioeng.9.060906.152025.


Cancer nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary area of research in science, engineering, and medicine with broad applications for molecular imaging, molecular diagnosis, and targeted therapy. The basic rationale is that nanometer-sized particles, such as semiconductor quantum dots and iron oxide nanocrystals, have optical, magnetic, or structural properties that are not available from molecules or bulk solids. When linked with tumor targeting ligands such as monoclonal antibodies, peptides, or small molecules, these nanoparticles can be used to target tumor antigens (biomarkers) as well as tumor vasculatures with high affinity and specificity. In the mesoscopic size range of 5-100 nm diameter, nanoparticles also have large surface areas and functional groups for conjugating to multiple diagnostic (e.g., optical, radioisotopic, or magnetic) and therapeutic (e.g., anticancer) agents. Recent advances have led to bioaffinity nanoparticle probes for molecular and cellular imaging, targeted nanoparticle drugs for cancer therapy, and integrated nanodevices for early cancer detection and screening. These developments raise exciting opportunities for personalized oncology in which genetic and protein biomarkers are used to diagnose and treat cancer based on the molecular profiles of individual patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Drug Delivery Systems / trends*
  • Gene Targeting / trends
  • Genetic Therapy / trends*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Probe Techniques / trends
  • Nanomedicine / trends*
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Nanostructures / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents