Importance of the field: The possibility of carbon nanotube integration into living systems for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes has opened the way to explore their applications in drug delivery and discovery. A wide variety of chemical approaches has been developed to functionalize carbon nanotubes with therapeutic molecules towards different biomedical uses. Areas covered in this review: This review covers the recent advances in the development of functionalized carbon nanotubes to offer improvements for different diseases, in particular for cancer therapy. What the reader will gain: Functionalized carbon nanotubes are able to transport therapeutic agents. Targeted methodologies using carbon nanotube-based conjugates have been investigated to improve the efficacy of some drugs. The capacity of such nanomaterials to seamlessly translocate into cells with alternative various mechanisms and their pharmacokinetic properties is also discussed. Take home message: Although at its infancy, functionalized carbon nanotubes are very promising as a new nanomedicine platform in the field of drug discovery and delivery. They have the capacity to cross biological barriers and can be eliminated via renal and/or fecal excretion. They can transport small drug molecules while maintaining and in some cases improving their therapeutic efficacy. © 2010 Informa UK Ltd.