Review Article

Evolution of macromolecular complexity in drug delivery systems

  • Nature Reviews Chemistry 1, Article number: 0063 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41570-017-0063
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Abstract

Designing therapeutics is a process with many challenges. Even if the first hurdle — designing a drug that modulates the action of a particular biological target in vitro — is overcome, selective delivery to that target in vivo presents a major barrier. Side-effects can, in many cases, result from the need to use higher doses without targeted delivery. However, the established use of macromolecules to encapsulate or conjugate drugs can provide improved delivery, and stands to enable better therapeutic outcomes. In this Review, we discuss how drug delivery approaches have evolved alongside our ability to prepare increasingly complex macromolecular architectures. We examine how this increased complexity has overcome the challenges of drug delivery and discuss its potential for fulfilling unmet needs in nanomedicine.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Prostate Cancer Foundation, National Cancer Institute (NIH Grant No. 1U54CA151884), and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (A.K.) for financial support.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences, Department of Chemical Engineering, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.

    • Ashok Kakkar
    • , Giovanni Traverso
    •  & Robert Langer
  2. Department of Chemistry, McGill University, 801 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal, Québec H3A 0B8, Canada.

    • Ashok Kakkar
  3. Division of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

    • Giovanni Traverso
  4. Center for Nanomedicine and Department of Anesthesiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

    • Omid C. Farokhzad
  5. Center for Systems Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.

    • Ralph Weissleder

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Competing interests

O.C.F. and R.L. declare competing interests in Selecta Biosciences and Tarveda Therapeutics.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert Langer.