Combinatorial-Designed Multifunctional Polymeric Nanosystems for Tumor-Targeted Therapeutic Delivery
By definition, multifunctional nanosystems include several features within a single construct so that these devices can target tumors or other disease tissue, facilitate in vivo imaging, and deliver a therapeutic agent. Investigations of these nanosystems are rapidly progressing and provide new opportunities in the management of cancer. Tumor-targeted nanosystems are currently designed based primarily on the intrinsic physico-chemical properties of off-the-shelf polymers. Following fabrication, the surfaces of these nanoscale structures are functionalized for passive or active targeted delivery to the tumors. In this Account, we describe a novel approach for the construction of multifunctional polymeric nanosystems based on combinatorial design principles. Combinatorial approaches offer several advantages over conventional methods because they allow for the integration of multiple components with varied properties into a nanosystem via self-assembly or chemical conjugation. High-throughput synthesis and screening is required in polymer design because polymer composition directly affects properties including drug loading, retention in circulation, and targeting of the nanosystems. The first approach relies on the self-assembly of macromolecular building blocks with specific functionalities in aqueous media to yield a large variety of nanoparticle systems. These self-assembled nanosystems with diverse functionalities can then be rapidly screened in a high-throughput fashion for selection of ideal formulations, or hits, which are further evaluated for safety and efficacy. In another approach, a library of a large number of polymeric materials is synthesized using different monomers. Each of the formed polymers is screened for the selection of the best candidates for nanoparticle fabrication. The combinatorial design principles allow for the selection of those nanosystems with the most favorable properties based on the type of payload, route of administration, and the desired target for imaging and delivery.