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Nanomedicine applied to cancer

Cancer is a major cause of mortality in the world, and its incidence has been steadily increasing since 1980. Cancer kills more people on a global scale than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and accounted for 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012 (World Cancer Report 2014). In the Western World and in the US, cancer represents the second leading cause of death after heart-attack. However, the impact in the developing world is growing at an alarming rate.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there will be 14 million new cases of cancer worldwide in 2030. More than 90% of cancer-related deaths occur by the spread of malignant cells to vital organs, a process called metastasis.

The most common cancer treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. These therapies may be used either alone or in combination with other therapies.

The main goals of a cancer diagnosis and treatment program are to cure or prolong the life of patients and to ensure the best possible quality of life to cancer survivors. The prognosis for several cancers has positively evolved as a result of therapeutic improvements over the past few decades.

Even though the introduction of new treatment options has improved the prognosis of cancer patients over the past years, this disease still represents a significant medical challenge.

The success rates of each treatment option vary significantly from one cancer type to another, and from one patient to another (complete remission, partial response or no response at all). Moreover, a wide variety of adverse reactions, such as pain, infection, blood clotting problems, hair loss, renal toxicity, fatigue, nausea and many others, can unfortunately be expected with cancer treatments.

Nanomedicine in cancer treatments is already a reality providing a wide range of new tools and possibilities. With currently 78 products under clinical development or on the market (including Abraxane, Doxil, DaunoXome, Evacet, Lipo-Dox, MyCare Assays, NanoTherm), oncology is the leading therapeutic area in nanomedicine.

There are still significant unmet medical needs, which is a motivation to develop more efficient therapeutic strategies based on nanomedicine for the treatment of cancers, with better efficacy and lower toxicity to help patients live longer and in better health.