Cancer nanomedicines: So many papers and so few drugs!

Vincent J. Venditto, Francis C. Szoka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

461 Scopus citations


This review identifies a timeline to nanomedicine anticancer drug approval using the business model of inventors, innovators and imitators. By evaluating the publication record of nanomedicine cancer therapeutics we identified a trend of very few publications prior to FDA approval. We first enumerated the publications related to cancer involving polymers, liposomes or monoclonal antibodies and determined the number of citations per publication as well as the number of published clinical trials among the publications. Combining these data with the development of specific nanomedicines, we are able to identify an invention phase consisting of seminal papers in basic science necessary for the development of a specific nanomedicine. The innovation phase includes the first report, the development and the clinical trials involving that nanomedicine. Finally, the imitation phase begins after approval when others ride the wave of success by using the same formulation for new drugs or using the same drug to validate other nanomedicines. We then focused our analysis on nanomedicines containing camptothecin derivatives, which are not yet approved including two polymers considered innovations and one liposomal formulation in the imitation phase. The conclusion that may be drawn from the analysis of the camptothecins is that approved drugs reformulated in polymeric and liposomal cancer nanomedicines have a more difficult time navigating through the approval process than the parent molecule. This is probably due to the fact that for most currently approved drugs, reformulating them in a nanocarrier provides a small increase in performance that large pharmaceutical companies do not consider being worth the time, effort and expense of development. It also appears that drug carriers have a more difficult path through the clinic than monoclonal antibodies. The added complexity of nanocarriers also deters their use to deliver new molecular entities. Thus, the new drug candidates that might be most improved by drug delivery in nanocarriers are not formulated in this fashion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH R01 GM061851 , R21 AI093135 . VJ Venditto was funded by an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award 1F32AI095062-01A1 .


  • Camptothecin
  • Liposomes
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Platinum therapy
  • Polymers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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