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Polysaccharides for the Delivery of Antitumor Drugs

Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, Via Franco Gallini 2, I-33081 Aviano (PN), Italy
Department of Engineering and Architecture, University of Trieste, Via Alfonso Valerio, 6/A, I-34127 Trieste, Italy
Department of Life Sciences, Cattinara University Hospital, Trieste University, Strada di Fiume 447, I-34149 Trieste, Italy
Laboratory of Bioinorganic Chemistry, Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna, I-40127 Bologna, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this paper.
Academic Editor: Loo Say Chye Joachim
Materials 2015, 8(5), 2569-2615;
Received: 24 January 2015 / Revised: 11 April 2015 / Accepted: 24 April 2015 / Published: 13 May 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Materials for Drug Delivery)
PDF [1555 KB, uploaded 13 May 2015]


Among the several delivery materials available so far, polysaccharides represent very attractive molecules as they can undergo a wide range of chemical modifications, are biocompatible, biodegradable, and have low immunogenic properties. Thus, polysaccharides can contribute to significantly overcome the limitation in the use of many types of drugs, including anti-cancer drugs. The use of conventional anti-cancer drugs is hampered by their high toxicity, mostly depending on the indiscriminate targeting of both cancer and normal cells. Additionally, for nucleic acid based drugs (NABDs), an emerging class of drugs with potential anti-cancer value, the practical use is problematic. This mostly depends on their fast degradation in biological fluids and the difficulties to cross cell membranes. Thus, for both classes of drugs, the development of optimal delivery materials is crucial. Here we discuss the possibility of using different kinds of polysaccharides, such as chitosan, hyaluronic acid, dextran, and pullulan, as smart drug delivery materials. We first describe the main features of polysaccharides, then a general overview about the aspects ruling drug release mechanisms and the pharmacokinetic are reported. Finally, notable examples of polysaccharide-based delivery of conventional anti-cancer drugs and NABDs are reported. Whereas additional research is required, the promising results obtained so far, fully justify further efforts, both in terms of economic support and investigations in the field of polysaccharides as drug delivery materials. View Full-Text
Keywords: polysaccharides; anticancer drugs; NABDs; delivery polysaccharides; anticancer drugs; NABDs; delivery

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Posocco, B.; Dreussi, E.; De Santa, J.; Toffoli, G.; Abrami, M.; Musiani, F.; Grassi, M.; Farra, R.; Tonon, F.; Grassi, G.; Dapas, B. Polysaccharides for the Delivery of Antitumor Drugs. Materials 2015, 8, 2569-2615.

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