Nanomaterials for cancer therapy: current progress and perspectives

Zhe Cheng, Maoyu Li, Raja Dey, Yongheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

377 Scopus citations


Cancer is a disease with complex pathological process. Current chemotherapy faces problems such as lack of specificity, cytotoxicity, induction of multi-drug resistance and stem-like cells growth. Nanomaterials are materials in the nanorange 1–100 nm which possess unique optical, magnetic, and electrical properties. Nanomaterials used in cancer therapy can be classified into several main categories. Targeting cancer cells, tumor microenvironment, and immune system, these nanomaterials have been modified for a wide range of cancer therapies to overcome toxicity and lack of specificity, enhance drug capacity as well as bioavailability. Although the number of studies has been increasing, the number of approved nano-drugs has not increased much over the years. To better improve clinical translation, further research is needed for targeted drug delivery by nano-carriers to reduce toxicity, enhance permeability and retention effects, and minimize the shielding effect of protein corona. This review summarizes novel nanomaterials fabricated in research and clinical use, discusses current limitations and obstacles that hinder the translation from research to clinical use, and provides suggestions for more efficient adoption of nanomaterials in cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalJournal of Hematology and Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 31 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81974074 and 81570537), Outstanding Youth Project of Hunan Education Department (19B475).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Blood–brain barrier
  • Cancer therapy
  • Drug delivery
  • Exosome
  • Nanomaterial
  • Protein corona
  • Tumor microenvironment


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