The rapid development of nanotechnology results in the emergence of nanomedicines, but the effective delivery of drugs to tumor sites remains a great challenge. Prodrug-based cancer nanomedicines thus emerged due to their unique advantages, including high drug load efficiency, reduced side effects, efficient targeting, and real-time controllability. A distinctive characteristic of prodrug-based nanomedicines is that they need to be activated by a stimulus or multi-stimulus to produce an anti-tumor effect. A better understanding of various responsive approaches could allow researchers to perceive the mechanism of prodrug-based nanomedicines effectively and further optimize their design strategy. In this review, we highlight the stimuli-responsive pathway of prodrug-based nanomedicines and their anticancer applications. Furthermore, various types of prodrug-based nanomedicines, recent progress and prospects of stimuli-responsive prodrug-based nanomedicines and patient data in the clinical application are also summarized. Additionally, the current development and future challenges of prodrug-based nanomedicines are discussed. We expect that this review will be valuable for readers to gain a deeper understanding of the structure and development of prodrug-based cancer nanomedicines to design rational and effective drugs for clinical use.
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- Cancer therapy