Local drug delivery strategies for cancer treatment: gels, nanoparticles, polymeric films, rods, and wafers

J Control Release. 2012 Apr 10;159(1):14-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2011.11.031. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


Polymer-based drug delivery depots have been investigated over the last several decades as a means to improve upon the lack of tumor targeting and severe systemic morbidities associated with intravenous chemotherapy treatments. These localized therapies exist in a variety of form factors designed to facilitate the delivery of drug directly to the site of disease in a controlled manner, sparing off-target tissue toxicities. Many of these depots are biodegradable and designed to maintain therapeutic concentrations of drug at the tumor site for a prolonged period of time. Thus a single implantation procedure is required, sometimes coincident with tumor excision surgery, and thereby biodegrading following complete release of the loaded active agent. Even though localized polymer depot delivery systems have been investigated, a surprisingly small subset of these technologies has demonstrated potentially curative preclinical results for cancer applications, and fewer have progressed toward commercialization. The aims of this article are to review the most well-studied and efficacious local polymer delivery systems from the last two decades, to examine the rationale for utilizing drug-eluting polymer implants in cancer patients, and to identify the patient cohorts that could most benefit from localized therapy. Finally, a discussion of the physiological barriers to localized therapy (i.e. drug penetration, transport), technical hurdles, and future outlook of the field is presented.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Biocompatible Materials / administration & dosage
  • Chitosan / administration & dosage
  • Decanoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Gels / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Microspheres
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Polyesters / administration & dosage
  • Polymers / administration & dosage


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Decanoic Acids
  • Gels
  • Polyesters
  • Polymers
  • polilactofate
  • Chitosan
  • decanedioic acid-4,4'-(1,3-propanediylbis(oxy))bis(benzoic acid) copolymer
  • Paclitaxel