In a new study published in Nature Communications, Israeli researchers discuss the untapped potential of targeted nanocarriers to revolutionize cancer therapy.

The study follows notable research on the subject published 10 years ago in Nature Nanotechnology that garnered over 5,000 citations, making it one of the most influential analyses on the subject to date.

That study was written by Prof. Dan Peer, director of the SPARK Tel Aviv Center for Translational Medicine at Tel Aviv University; and Jeffrey Karp, principal investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

The updated review was written by Peer, Karp, Daniel Rosenblum (a doctoral student in Peer’s lab), and Wei Tao and Dr. Nitin Joshi from the Center for Nanomedicine and Division of Engineering in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“When Dan and Jeff’s paper was published 10 years ago, there was great hope that nanocarriers in general and actively targeted nanocarriers in particular would transform cancer therapy,” Rosenblum said. “We’ve made significant progress towards understanding the interaction of nanocarriers with tumor cells and tissues since then, but the clinical translation has been limited.”

“Few nanocarriers have been approved for clinical use, and none of the actively targeted nanocarriers has advanced past clinical trials,” Joshi added.

The authors discuss several reasons for this, including a lack of preclinical models that accurately mimic human tumors, the need for patient evaluation prior to nanocarrier treatment, and the need for more appropriate clinical trial pathways for these new types of drugs.

According to the new study, cancers have proven more complex than previously believed due to their ability to change, evolve and eventually gain resistance.

“We need to be able to target many kinds of cancer cell types, and we need the systems to be as simple as possible. But they have to be versatile too. We emphasize the idea of developing personalized nanocarriers based on the type of cancer and its biomarker profile,” Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum says the key to future success also lies in developing animal models that better resemble human tumors and preselecting patients with a high likelihood of responding to nanocarrier-based cancer treatments.