A paradigm shift in cancer nanomedicine: from traditional tumor targeting to leveraging the immune system

Drug Discov Today. 2021 Jun;26(6):1482-1489. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2021.02.017. Epub 2021 Feb 19.


Twenty-five years after the approval of the first anticancer nanodrug, we have to start re(de)fining tumor-targeted drug delivery alongside advances in immuno-oncology. Given that cancer is characterized by an immunological imbalance that goes beyond the primary tumor, we should focus on targeting, engaging, and modulating cancer-associated immune cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME), circulation, and immune cell-enriched tissues. When designed and applied rationally, nanomedicines will assist in restoring the immunological equilibrium at the whole-body level, which holds potential not only for cancer therapy, but also for the treatment of a range of other disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • Antineoplastic Agents