Malignant tumors are characterized by structural and molecular peculiarities providing a possibility to directionally deliver antitumor drugs with minimal impact on healthy tissues and reduced side effects. Newly formed blood vessels in malignant lesions exhibit chaotic growth, disordered structure, irregular shape and diameter, protrusions, and blind ends, resulting in immature vasculature; the newly formed lymphatic vessels also have aberrant structure. Structural features of the tumor vasculature determine relatively easy penetration of large molecules as well as nanometer-sized particles through a blood–tissue barrier and their accumulation in a tumor tissue. Also, malignant cells have altered molecular profile due to significant changes in tumor cell metabolism at every level from the genome to metabolome. Recently, the tumor interaction with cells of immune system becomes the focus of particular attention, that among others findings resulted in extensive study of cells with preferential tropism to tumor. In this review we summarize the information on the diversity of currently existing approaches to targeted drug delivery to tumor, including (i) passive targeting based on the specific features of tumor vasculature, (ii) active targeting which implies a specific binding of the antitumor agent with its molecular target, and (iii) cell-mediated tumor targeting.
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