Targeting carbon nanotubes against cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


  • Chiara Fabbro
  • Tatiana Da Ros
  • Kostas Kostarelos
  • Alberto Bianco
  • Maurizio Prato

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Center of Excellence for Nanostructured Materials, INSTM unit of Trieste, Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Farmaceutiche, Università di Trieste, Trieste, 34127, Italy.


The use of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as polyvalent tools for cancer treatment is progressing at a very fast pace. The most promising approach is the targeted delivery of drugs, designed to selectively direct the therapeutic treatment towards the tumours. CNTs may offer several advantages to overcome one of the main limitations of most existing anticancer therapies, namely the lack of selectivity. Herein, an account of the existing literature on CNT-based nanomedicine for cancer treatment is given. The most significant results obtained so far in the field of drug delivery are presented for many anticancer chemotherapeutics (doxorubicin, methotrexate, taxanes, platinum analogues, camptothecine and gemcitabine), but also for immunotherapeutics and nucleic acids. Moreover, the alternative anticancer therapies based on thermal ablation and radiotherapy are discussed. The attention throughout the review is focused on the different targeting strategies proposed so far, mainly based on antibodies, but also on other specifically recognised molecules or on the application of an external magnetic field.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3911-26
Number of pages16
JournalChemical Communications
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2012


  • Ablation Techniques, Animals, Antineoplastic Agents/administration & dosage, Drug Carriers/chemistry, Humans, Immunotherapy, Nanomedicine/methods, Nanotubes, Carbon/chemistry, Neoplasms/drug therapy