Application of nanoparticles in cancer treatment: a concise review

Mariana Sell, Ana Rita Lopes, Maria Escudeiro, Bruno Esteves, Ana R. Monteiro, Tito Trindade, Luísa Cruz-Lopes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Timely diagnosis and appropriate antitumoral treatments remain of utmost importance, since cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide. Within this context, nanotechnology offers specific benefits in terms of cancer therapy by reducing its adverse effects and guiding drugs to selectively target cancer cells. In this comprehensive review, we have summarized the most relevant novel outcomes in the range of 2010–2023, covering the design and application of nanosystems for cancer therapy. We have established the general requirements for nanoparticles to be used in drug delivery and strategies for their uptake in tumor microenvironment and vasculature, including the reticuloendothelial system uptake and surface functionalization with protein corona. After a brief review of the classes of nanovectors, we have covered different classes of nanoparticles used in cancer therapies. First, the advances in the encapsulation of drugs (such as paclitaxel and fisetin) into nanoliposomes and nanoemulsions are described, as well as their relevance in current clinical trials. Then, polymeric nanoparticles are presented, namely the ones comprising poly lactic-co-glycolic acid, polyethylene glycol (and PEG dilemma) and dendrimers. The relevance of quantum dots in bioimaging is also covered, namely the systems with zinc sulfide and indium phosphide. Afterwards, we have reviewed gold nanoparticles (spheres and anisotropic) and their application in plasmon-induced photothermal therapy. The clinical relevance of iron oxide nanoparticles, such as magnetite and maghemite, has been analyzed in different fields, namely for magnetic resonance imaging, immunotherapy, hyperthermia, and drug delivery. Lastly, we have covered the recent advances in the systems using carbon nanomaterials, namely graphene oxide, carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and carbon dots. Finally, we have compared the strategies of passive and active targeting of nanoparticles and their relevance in cancer theranostics. This review aims to be a (nano)mark on the ongoing journey towards realizing the remarkable potential of different nanoparticles in the realm of cancer therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2887
Number of pages28
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2023


  • Cancer treatments
  • Drug delivery
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanotechnology
  • Passive and active targeting
  • Tumor environment


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