Table of Contents
Metal-Based Drugs
Volume 2008 (2008), Article ID 469531, 19 pages
Research Article

Synthetic Polymers as Drug-Delivery Vehicles in Medicine

School of Chemistry, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, WITS 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Received 13 August 2007; Accepted 18 October 2007

Academic Editor: Jannie C. Swarts

Copyright © 2008 Eberhard W. Neuse. 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.


Cancerous diseases present a formidable health problem worldwide. While the chemotherapy of cancer, in conjunction with other treatment modalities, has reached a significant level of maturity, efficacious use of such agents is still restricted by numerous pharmacological deficiencies, such as poor water solubility, short serum circulation lifetimes, and low bioavailability resulting from lack of affinity to cancer tissue and inadequate mechanisms of cell entry. More critically still, most drugs suffer from toxic side effects and a risk of drug resistance. The class of platinum anticancer drugs, although outstandingly potent, is particularly notorious in that respect. Among the countless methods developed in recent years in an effort to overcome these deficiencies, the technology of polymer-drug conjugation stands out as a particularly advanced treatment modality. The strategy involves the bioreversible binding, conjugating, of a medicinal agent to a water-soluble macromolecular carrier. Following pharmacokinetic pathways distinctly different from those of the common, nonpolymeric drugs, the conjugate so obtained will act as a prodrug providing safe transport of the bioactive agent to and into the affected, that is, cancerous cell for its ultimate cell-killing activity. The present treatise will acquaint us with the pharmacological fundamentals of this drug delivery approach, applied here specifically to the metalorganic platinum-type drug systems and the organometallic ferrocene drug model. We will see just how this technology leads to conjugates distinctly superior in antiproliferative activity to cisplatin, a clinically used antitumor agent used here as a standard. Polymer-drug conjugation involving metal-based and other medicinal agents has unquestionably matured to a practical tool to the pharmaceutical scientist, and all indications point to an illustrious career for this nascent drug delivery approach in the fight against cancer and other human maladies.