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Journal of Nanomaterials
Volume 2016, Article ID 5436458, 16 pages
Review Article

What Is the Role of Nanotechnology in Diagnosis and Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer? Promising Scenarios for the Near Future

1Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences “L. Sacco”, University of Milan, Via G. B. Grassi 74, 20157 Milan, Italy
2Surgery Division, “Luigi Sacco” Hospital, Via G. B. Grassi 74, 20157 Milan, Italy

Received 30 March 2016; Accepted 22 May 2016

Academic Editor: Michele Laus

Copyright © 2016 Truffi Marta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Metastatic breast cancer represents a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge due to tumor heterogeneity and to various physiological barriers that hinder drug delivery to the metastatic sites. To overcome these limitations, nanoformulated drugs have been developed and tested in preclinical studies, and few of them have been successfully translated into clinical practice. In particular, liposomal anthracyclines and nanoformulated albumin-bound paclitaxel have revealed an improved therapeutic index when compared to conventional chemotherapy, with significant reduction of drugs toxicity. Several strategies for nanoparticles engineering have more recently been explored to increase selectivity for tumor cells and to reach poorly accessible metastatic districts. Targeted nanoparticles, directed toward tumor markers and tissue-specific metastases, may provide effective devices in case of low-vascularized and small-sized metastases, thus paving the way for a real change in the natural history of metastatic disease. A number of targets have been identified and exploited for surface functionalization of different types of nanoparticles, which are currently undergoing preclinical studies. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of current nanotechnology applied to metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Promising results encourage an upcoming translation of this research into clinical practice for an effective management of the disease in the near future.