Cancer and Metastasis Reviews

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 253–266

Vascular and interstitial barriers to delivery of therapeutic agents in tumors

  • Rakesh K. Jain


The efficacy in cancer treatment of novel therapeutic agents such as monoclonal antibodies, cytokines and effector cells has been limited by their inability to reach their targetin vivo in adequate quantities. Molecular and cellular biology of neoplastic cells alone has failed to explain the nonuniform uptake of these agents. This is not surprising since a solid tumorin vivo is not just a collection of cancer cells. In fact, it consists of two extracellular compartments: vascular and interstitial. Since no blood-borne molecule or cell can reach cancer cells without passing through these compartments, the vascular and interstitial physiology of tumors has received considerable attention in recent years. Three physiological factors responsible for the poor localization of macromolecules in tumors have been identified: (i) heterogeneous blood supply, (ii) elevated interstitial pressure, and (iii) large transport distances in the interstitium. The first factor limits the delivery of blood-borne agents to well-perfused regions of a tumor; the second factor reduces extravasation of fluid and macromolecules in the high interstitial pressure regions and also leads to an experimentally verifiable, radially outward convection in the tumor periphery which opposes the inward diffusion; and the third factor increases the time required for slowly moving macromolecules to reach distal regions of a tumor. Binding of the molecule to an antigen further lowers the effective diffusion rate by reducing the amount of mobile molecule. Although the effector cells are capable of active migration, peculiarities of the tumor vasculature and interstitium may be also responsible for poor delivery of lymphokine activated killer cells and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes in solid tumors. Due to micro- and macroscopic heterogeneities in tumors, the relative magnitude of each of these physiological barriers would vary from one location to another and from one day to the next in the same tumor, and from one tumor to another. If the genetically engineered macromolecules and effector cells, as well as low molecular weight cytotoxic agents, are to fulfill their clinical promise, strategies must be developed to overcome or exploit these barriers. Some of these strategies are discussed, and situations wherein these barriers may not be a problem are outlined. Finally, some therapies where the tumor vasculature or the interstitium may be a target are pointed out.

Key words

vascular permeability interstitial pressure microvascular pressure monoclonal antibodies LAK cells TILs biological response modifiers anti-angiogenic therapy 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rakesh K. Jain
    • 1
  1. 1.Tumor Microcirculation Laboratory, Department of Chemical EngineeringCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Tumor Microcirculation Laboratory, Department of Chemical EngineeringCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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