The mitochondrion is a dynamic eukaryotic organelle that controls lethal and vital functions of the cell. Being a critical center of metabolic activities and involved in many diseases, mitochondria have been attracting attention as a potential target for therapeutics, especially for cancer treatment. Structural and functional differences between healthy and cancerous mitochondria, such as membrane potential, respiratory rate, energy production pathway, and gene mutations, could be employed for the design of selective targeting systems for cancer mitochondria. A number of mitochondria-targeting compounds, including mitochondria-directed conventional drugs, mitochondrial proteins/metabolism-inhibiting agents, and mitochondria-targeted photosensitizers, have been discussed. Recently, certain drug-free approaches have been introduced as an alternative to induce selective cancer mitochondria dysfunction, such as intramitochondrial aggregation, self-assembly, and biomineralization. In this review, we discuss the recent progress in mitochondria-targeted cancer therapy from the conventional approach of drug/cytotoxic agent conjugates to advanced drug-free approaches.
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