Drug delivery to the lymphatic system: Importance in future cancer diagnosis and therapies

Yumei Xie, Taryn R. Bagby, M. S. Cohen, M. Laird Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US. Currently, protocols for cancer treatment include surgery to remove diseased and suspect tissues, focused radiation, systemic chemotherapy, immunotherapy and their combinations. With conventional chemotherapy, it is almost impossible to deliver anticancer drugs specifically to the tumor cells without damaging healthy organs or tissues. Over the past several decades, efforts have been made to improve drug delivery technologies that target anticancer drugs specifically to tumor cells. It has been known for over four decades that the lymphatics are the first site of metastasis for most solid cancers; however, few efforts have been made to localize chemotherapies to lymphatic tissues. Trials of several systemic targeted drug delivery systems based on nanoparticles containing chemotherapeutic agents (e.g., liposomal doxorubicin) have shown similar antitumor activity but better patient tolerance compared with conventional formulations. Animal studies have demonstrated that nanoparticles made of natural or synthetic polymers and liposomal carriers have higher accumulation in the lymph nodes and surrounding lymphatics compared to conventional intravenous therapies. This combination has the potential to both reduce nonspecific organ toxicities and increase the chemotherapeutic dose to the most likely sites of locoregional cancer metastasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-792
Number of pages8
JournalExpert Opinion on Drug Delivery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer diagnosis
  • Chemotherapies
  • Liposomes
  • Lymphatics
  • Nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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