Polysaccharides for the delivery of antitumor drugs

Bianca Posocco, Eva Dreussi, Jacopo De Santa, Giuseppe Toffoli, Michela Abrami, Francesco Musiani, Mario Grassi, Rossella Farra, Federica Tonon, Gabriele Grassi, Barbara Dapas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2569-2615
Number of pages47
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Anticancer drugs
  • Delivery
  • NABDs
  • Polysaccharides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Polysaccharides for the delivery of antitumor drugs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this