With the development of nanotechnology, various types of polymer-based drug delivery systems have been designed for biomedical applications. Polymer-based drug delivery systems with desirable biocompatibility can be efficiently delivered to tumor sites with passive or targeted effects and combined with other therapeutic and imaging agents for cancer theranostics. As an effective vehicle for drug and gene delivery, polyethyleneimine (PEI) has been extensively studied due to its rich surface amines and excellent water solubility. In this work, we summarize the surface modifications of PEI to enhance biocompatibility and functionalization. Additionally, the synthesis of PEI-based nanoparticles is discussed. We further review the applications of PEI-based drug delivery systems in cancer treatment, cancer imaging, and cancer theranostics. Finally, we thoroughly consider the outlook and challenges relating to PEI-based drug delivery systems.
Keywords: cancer imaging; cancer theranostics; cancer treatment; drug delivery; polyethylenimine.