Concise Review: Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Based Drug Delivery: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Promise

Timothy E.G. Krueger, Daniel L.J. Thorek, Samuel R. Denmeade, John T. Isaacs, W. Nathaniel Brennen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


The development of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as cell-based drug delivery vectors for numerous clinical indications, including cancer, has significant promise. However, a considerable challenge for effective translation of these approaches is the limited tumor tropism and broad biodistribution observed using conventional MSCs, which raises concerns for toxicity to nontarget peripheral tissues (i.e., the bad). Consequently, there are a variety of synthetic engineering platforms in active development to improve tumor-selective targeting via increased homing efficiency and/or specificity of drug activation, some of which are already being evaluated clinically (i.e., the good). Unfortunately, the lack of robust quantification and widespread adoption of standardized methodologies with high sensitivity and resolution has made accurate comparisons across studies difficult, which has significantly impeded progress (i.e., the ugly). Herein, we provide a concise review of active and passive MSC homing mechanisms and biodistribution postinfusion; in addition to in vivo cell tracking methodologies and strategies to enhance tumor targeting with a focus on MSC-based drug delivery strategies for cancer therapy. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2018;1–13.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-663
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cells Translational Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Cell size
  • Cell-based therapy
  • Drug delivery
  • Homing
  • In vivo cell tracking
  • Mesenchymal stem cell


Dive into the research topics of 'Concise Review: Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Based Drug Delivery: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Promise'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this