Drug carriers tailored to fit the physicochemical properties of anticancer agents and the therapeutic peculiarities of tumor management are envisioned for improving the effectiveness/toxicity ratio of the current treatments. Polymeric micelles are attracting much attention owing to their unique beneficial features: i) core-shell structure capable to host hydrophobic drugs, raising the apparent solubility in aqueous medium; ii) size adequate for a preferential accumulation (passive targeting) within the tumor, exhibiting enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect, and iii) unimers that modulate the activity of efflux pumps involved in multidrug resistance (MDR). This review focuses on amphiphilic poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) and poly(propylene oxide) (PPO) block copolymers, namely the linear poloxamers (Pluronic® or Lutrol®) and the X-shaped poloxamines (Tetronic®), as components of polymeric micelles able to play these three roles. Specific facets of poloxamers have been highlighted some years ago, but recently their wide range of possibilities is beginning to be fully elucidated and understood. Poloxamines are new excipients in the cancer arena and the comparison of their performance with that of poloxamers may enable to identify aspects of their architecture relevant for the optimization of micellar carriers. Clinical trials in progress indicate that drug-loaded polymeric micelles are beneficial regarding efficiency, safety, and compliance of the treatment and quality of life of the patients. The fact that some copolymers are already approved for internal use and several chemotherapy agents will be off patent soon may help to bring the clinical use of poloxamer- or poloxamine-based micelles into a reality in the coming years.
Keywords: Anticancer therapy, poloxamer, poloxamine, drug solubilization, polymeric micelle, EPR effect, P-glycoprotein inhibition, multi-drug resistance, PEO-PPO, copolymer
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