Nanomedicines in the treatment of colon cancer: a focus on metallodrugs


Worldwide, colon cancer (CC) represents the fourth most common type of cancer and the fifth major cause of cancer-associated deaths. Surgical resection is considered the standard therapeutic choice for CC in early stages. However, in latter stages of the disease, adjuvant chemotherapy is essential for an appropriate management of this pathology. Metal-based complexes displaying cytotoxic properties towards tumor cells emerge as potential chemotherapeutic options. One metallodrug, oxaliplatin, was already approved for clinical use, playing an important role in the treatment of CC patients. Unfortunately, most of the newly designed metal-based complexes exhibit lack of selectivity against cancer cells, low solubility and permeability, high dose-limiting toxicity, and emergence of resistances. Nanodelivery systems enable the incorporation of metallodrugs at adequate payloads, solving the above-referred drawbacks. Moreover, drug delivery systems, depending on their physicochemical properties, are able to release the incorporated material preferentially at affected tissues/organs, enhancing the therapeutic activity in vivo, with concomitant fewer side effects. In this review, the general features and therapeutic management of CC will be addressed, with a special focus on preclinical or clinical studies using metal-based compounds. Furthermore, the use of different nanodelivery systems will also be described as tools to potentiate the therapeutic index of metallodrugs for the management of CC.

Graphical abstract

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Data availability

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) for financial support through Projects UIDB/04138/2020, UIDP/04138/2020 and PTDC/MED-QUI/31721/2017, as well as for the PhD fellowship SFRH/BD/117586/2016.

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All authors whose names appear on the submission made substantial contributions to the article. Pedro Farinha—writing and original draft preparation; Pedro Farinha, Jacinta O. Pinho, Mariana Matias and Maria Manuela Gaspar—writing, editing, and critical revision of intellectual content; Pedro Farinha, Jacinta O. Pinho, Mariana Matias, and Maria Manuela Gaspar—conceptualization and supervision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mariana Matias or M. Manuela Gaspar.

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Farinha, P., Pinho, J.O., Matias, M. et al. Nanomedicines in the treatment of colon cancer: a focus on metallodrugs. Drug Deliv. and Transl. Res. (2021).

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  • Nanomedicine
  • Colon cancer
  • Metal-based complexes
  • Liposomes
  • Solid lipid nanoparticles
  • Polymeric nanoparticles