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Radiotherapy, where ionizing radiation is locally delivered either through an external beam or by surgically implanting radionuclide- based seeds in the tumor, is one of the gold standard treatments for cancer. Due to the non-selective nature of radiation, healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous region is usually affected by the treatment. Hence, new strategies, including targeted alpha therapy, are being studied to improve the selectivity of the treatment and minimize side effects. Several challenges, however, limit the current development of targeted radiotherapy, such as the functionalization of the therapeutic agent with targeting vectors and controlling the release of recoiling daughters. Nanoparticles offer unique opportunities as drug delivery vehicles, since they are biocompatible, enhance the cellular uptake of drugs, and are easily functionalized with targeting molecules. In this review, we examine how nanoparticles can be used for targeted radiotherapy, either as sensitizers of external beams or as delivery vehicles for therapeutic radionuclides. We describe the clinical relevance of different types of nanoparticles, followed by an analysis of how these nanoconstructs can solve some of the main limitations of conventional radiotherapy. Finally, we critically discuss the current situation of nanoparticle-based radiotherapy in clinical settings and challenges that need to be overcome in the future for further development of the field.

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Nanoparticles for targeted cancer radiotherapy
Show Author's information Roger M. Pallares1Rebecca J. Abergel1,2( )
Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Radiotherapy, where ionizing radiation is locally delivered either through an external beam or by surgically implanting radionuclide- based seeds in the tumor, is one of the gold standard treatments for cancer. Due to the non-selective nature of radiation, healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous region is usually affected by the treatment. Hence, new strategies, including targeted alpha therapy, are being studied to improve the selectivity of the treatment and minimize side effects. Several challenges, however, limit the current development of targeted radiotherapy, such as the functionalization of the therapeutic agent with targeting vectors and controlling the release of recoiling daughters. Nanoparticles offer unique opportunities as drug delivery vehicles, since they are biocompatible, enhance the cellular uptake of drugs, and are easily functionalized with targeting molecules. In this review, we examine how nanoparticles can be used for targeted radiotherapy, either as sensitizers of external beams or as delivery vehicles for therapeutic radionuclides. We describe the clinical relevance of different types of nanoparticles, followed by an analysis of how these nanoconstructs can solve some of the main limitations of conventional radiotherapy. Finally, we critically discuss the current situation of nanoparticle-based radiotherapy in clinical settings and challenges that need to be overcome in the future for further development of the field.

Keywords: radiotherapy, targeted cancer radiotherapy, nanoparticles, cancer, targeted alpha therapy, external beam
Received: 10 May 2020 Revised: 17 June 2020 Accepted: 26 June 2020 Published: 16 July 2020 Issue date: November 2020
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Publication history
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Publication history

Received: 10 May 2020
Revised: 17 June 2020
Accepted: 26 June 2020
Published: 16 July 2020
Issue date: November 2020


© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020


The authors acknowledge support from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under Faculty Development Grant NRC-HQ-84- 14-G-0052 and from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division at LBNL under Contract DE-AC02-05CH11231, during the writing of this review.

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