Theranostics 2019; 9(26):8073-8090. doi:10.7150/thno.37198 This issue


Alliance with EPR Effect: Combined Strategies to Improve the EPR Effect in the Tumor Microenvironment

Jooho Park, Yongwhan Choi1,2¶, Hyeyoun Chang1,3, Wooram Um1, Ju Hee Ryu1✉, Ick Chan Kwon1,2,3✉

1. Center for Theragnosis, Biomedical Research Institute, Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Hwarang-ro 14-gil 5, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 02792, Republic of Korea
2. KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology, Korea University, 145 Anam-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 02841, Republic of Korea
3. Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, United States
These authors contributed equally to this work

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Park J, Choi Y, Chang H, Um W, Ryu JH, Kwon IC. Alliance with EPR Effect: Combined Strategies to Improve the EPR Effect in the Tumor Microenvironment. Theranostics 2019; 9(26):8073-8090. doi:10.7150/thno.37198. Available from

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Graphic abstract

The use of nanomedicine for cancer treatment takes advantage of its preferential accumulation in tumors owing to the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. The development of cancer nanomedicine has promised highly effective treatment options unprecedented by standard therapeutics. However, the therapeutic efficacy of passively targeted nanomedicine is not always satisfactory because it is largely influenced by the heterogeneity of the intensity of the EPR effect exhibited within a tumor, at different stages of a tumor, and among individual tumors. In addition, limited data on EPR effectiveness in human hinders further clinical translation of nanomedicine. This unsatisfactory therapeutic outcome in mice and humans necessitates novel approaches to improve the EPR effect. This review focuses on current attempts at overcoming the limitations of traditional EPR-dependent nanomedicine by incorporating supplementary strategies, such as additional molecular targeting, physical alteration, or physiological remodeling of the tumor microenvironment. This review will provide valuable insight to researchers who seek to overcome the limitations of relying on the EPR effect alone in cancer nanomedicine and go “beyond the EPR effect”.

Keywords: EPR effect, targeted therapy, nanoparticle, cancer treatment, drug delivery