Hypoxia is a state of low oxygen tension found in numerous solid tumours. It is typically associated with abnormal vasculature, which results in a reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients, as well as impaired delivery of drugs. The hypoxic nature of tumours often leads to the development of localized heterogeneous environments characterized by variable oxygen concentrations, relatively low pH, and increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The hypoxic heterogeneity promotes tumour invasiveness, metastasis, angiogenesis, and an increase in multidrug-resistant proteins. These factors decrease the therapeutic efficacy of anticancer drugs and can provide a barrier to advancing drug leads beyond the early stages of preclinical development. This review highlights various hypoxia-targeted and activated design strategies for the formulation of drugs or prodrugs and their mechanism of action for tumour diagnosis and treatment.
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