Introduction: Stimuli-responsive nanocarriers offer unique advantages over the traditional drug delivery systems (DDSs) in terms of targeted drug delivery and on-demand release of cargo drug molecules. Of these, chitosan (CS)-based DDSs offer several advantages such as high compatibility with biological settings. Methods: In this study, we surveyed the literature in terms of the stimuli-responsive nanocarriers and discussed the most recent advancements in terms of CS-based nanosystems and their applications in cancer therapy and diagnosis. Results: These advanced DDSs are able to release the entrapped drugs in response to a specific endogenous stimulus (e.g., pH, glutathione concentration or certain enzymes) or exogenous stimulus (e.g., temperature, light, ultrasound, and magnetic field) at the desired time and target site. Dual-responsive nanocarriers by the combination of different stimuli have also been developed as efficient and improved DDSs. Among the stimuli-responsive nanocarriers, CS-based DDSs offer several advantages, including biocompatibility and biodegradability, antibacterial activity, ease of modification and functionalization, and non-immunogenicity. They are as one of the most ideal smart multifunction DDSs. Conclusion: The CS-based stimuli-responsive multifunctional nanosystems (NSs) offer unique potential for the targeted delivery of anticancer agents and provide great potential for on-demand and controlled-release of anticancer agents in response to diverse external/internal stimuli.
Keywords: Cancer therapy; Chitosan; Nanomedicines; Smart drug delivery systems; Stimuli-responsive; Theranostics.