Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology in medicine and is one of the most extensive and promising subdisciplines of research and development efforts at the nanoscale. Innovative engineered nanomaterials (ENM) constitute an essential component of this emerging field. Well-designed ENM have indeed the potential to overcome the limitations of current medicines (e.g. efficiency, specificity) and, thus, advance disease diagnosis and treatment.
In this chapter, we do not aim to offer an extensive survey of all the ENM developed for therapeutic applications so far, but hope to provide some pertinent examples of nanomaterials that are currently in use in the clinic or are in clinical trials, and others that have demonstrated promise for various biomedical applications but are still under preclinical development. The therapeutic potential and challenges offered by different types of nanomaterials, including nanoparticles, polymer-conjugates, polymerosomes, dendrimers and carbon nanotubes are therefore presented in the following sections. One of the main and transversal applications of the selected ENM is their use as drug nanovectors in cancer intervention, with the aim to provide a more efficient and controllable delivery of chemotherapeutics compared to more common drug formulations. As knowledge and control of the different physical, chemical and biological properties of these nanoscale materials becomes more advanced, their promise as future therapeutic and diagnostic opportunities to fight cancer or other diseases becomes increasingly more realistic.