Hyaluronic acid (HA) has been widely investigated in cancer therapy due to its excellent characteristics. HA, which is a linear anionic polymer, has biocompatibility, biodegradability, non-immunogenicity, non-inflammatory, and non-toxicity properties. Various HA nanomedicines (i.e., micelles, nanogels, and nanoparticles) can be prepared easily using assembly and modification of its functional groups such as carboxy, hydroxy and N
-acetyl groups. Nanometer-sized HA nanomedicines can selectively deliver drugs or other molecules into tumor sites via their enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. In addition, HA can interact with overexpressed receptors in cancer cells such as cluster determinant 44 (CD44) and receptor for HA-mediated motility (RHAMM) and be degraded by a family of enzymes called hyaluronidase (HAdase) to release drugs or molecules. By interaction with receptors or degradation by enzymes inside cancer cells, HA nanomedicines allow enhanced targeting cancer therapy. In this article, recent studies about HA nanomedicines in drug delivery systems, photothermal therapy, photodynamic therapy, diagnostics (because of the high biocompatibility), colloidal stability, and cancer targeting are reviewed for strategies using micelles, nanogels, and inorganic nanoparticles.
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