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.
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