Advances in targeted nanotherapeutics: From bioconjugation to biomimicry

Danielle M. Valcourt, Jenna Harris, Rachel S. Riley, Megan Dang, Jianxin Wang, Emily S. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Since the emergence of cancer nanomedicine, researchers have had intense interest in developing nanoparticles (NPs) that can specifically target diseased sites while avoiding healthy tissue to mitigate the off-target effects seen with conventional treatments like chemotherapy. Initial endeavors focused on the bioconjugation of targeting agents to NPs, and more recently, researchers have begun to develop biomimetic NP platforms that can avoid immune recognition to maximally accumulate in tumors. In this review, we describe the advantages and limitations of each of these targeting strategies. First, we review developments in bioconjugation strategies, where NPs are coated with biomolecules such as antibodies, aptamers, peptides, and small molecules to enable cell-specific binding. While bioconjugated NPs offer many exciting features and have improved pharmacokinetics and biodistribution relative to unmodified NPs, they are still recognized by the body as “foreign”, resulting in their clearance by the mononuclear phagocytic system (MPS). To overcome this limitation, researchers have recently begun to investigate biomimetic approaches that can hide NPs from immune recognition and reduce clearance by the MPS. These biomimetic NPs fall into two distinct categories: synthetic NPs that present naturally occurring structures, and NPs that are completely disguised by natural structures. Overall, bioconjugated and biomimetic NPs have substantial potential to improve upon conventional treatments by reducing off-target effects through site-specific delivery, and they show great promise for future standards of care. Here, we provide a summary of each strategy, discuss considerations for their design moving forward, and highlight their potential clinical impact on cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4999-5016
Number of pages18
JournalNano Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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