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Nanoparticles for targeted cancer radiotherapy


Radiotherapy, where ionizing radiation is locally delivered either through an external beam or by surgically implanting radionuclide-based seeds in the tumor, is one of the gold standard treatments for cancer. Due to the non-selective nature of radiation, healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous region is usually affected by the treatment. Hence, new strategies, including targeted alpha therapy, are being studied to improve the selectivity of the treatment and minimize side effects. Several challenges, however, limit the current development of targeted radiotherapy, such as the functionalization of the therapeutic agent with targeting vectors and controlling the release of recoiling daughters. Nanoparticles offer unique opportunities as drug delivery vehicles, since they are biocompatible, enhance the cellular uptake of drugs, and are easily functionalized with targeting molecules. In this review, we examine how nanoparticles can be used for targeted radiotherapy, either as sensitizers of external beams or as delivery vehicles for therapeutic radionuclides. We describe the clinical relevance of different types of nanoparticles, followed by an analysis of how these nanoconstructs can solve some of the main limitations of conventional radiotherapy. Finally, we critically discuss the current situation of nanoparticle-based radiotherapy in clinical settings and challenges that need to be overcome in the future for further development of the field. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

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