A computational framework for identifying design guidelines to increase the penetration of targeted nanoparticles into tumors

Sabine Hauert, Spring Berman, Radhika Nagpal, Sangeeta N. Bhatia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Targeted nanoparticles are increasingly being engineered for the treatment of cancer. By design, they can passively accumulate in tumors, selectively bind to targets in their environment, and deliver localized treatments. However, the penetration of targeted nanoparticles deep into tissue can be hindered by their slow diffusion and a high binding affinity. As a result, they often localize to areas around the vessels from which they extravasate, never reaching the deep-seeded tumor cells, thereby limiting their efficacy. To increase tissue penetration and cellular accumulation, we propose generalizable guidelines for nanoparticle design and validate them using two different computer models that capture the potency, motion, binding kinetics, and cellular internalization of targeted nanoparticles in a section of tumor tissue. One strategy that emerged from the models was delaying nanoparticle binding until after the nanoparticles have had time to diffuse deep into the tissue. Results show that nanoparticles that are designed according to these guidelines do not require fine-tuning of their kinetics or size and can be administered in lower doses than classical targeted nanoparticles for a desired tissue penetration in a large variety of tumor scenarios. In the future, similar models could serve as a testbed to explore engineered tissue-distributions that arise when large numbers of nanoparticles interact in a tumor environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-576
Number of pages11
JournalNano Today
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013



  • Cancer
  • Modeling
  • Nanoparticle
  • Systems nanotechnology
  • Targeting
  • Tissue penetration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Pharmaceutical Science

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