In this issue of the JCI, Liu et al. use irinotecan-loaded nanoparticles to treat pancreatic adenocarcinomas in mice. Encapsulating drugs into nanoparticles has distinct advantages: it can improve the pharmacokinetics of the drug, enhance efficacy, and reduce unwanted side effects. A drawback is that the large size of nanoparticles restricts their access to the tumor interior. Liu and colleagues show that the cyclic tumor-penetrating peptide iRGD, reported to be capable of enhancing tumor penetration by drugs, can overcome this limitation to a substantial degree when administered together with the nanoparticles. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is a challenging malignancy to treat and in desperate need for improved treatments; therefore, advances like this are most welcome.
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