Aim: In this article, we use an alternative cancer model for the evaluation of nanotherapy, and assess the impact of surface functionalization and active targeting of mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) on therapeutic efficacy in vivo. Materials & methods: We used the chorioallantoic membrane xenograft assay to investigate the biodistribution and therapeutic efficacy of folate versus polyethyleneimine-functionalized ¿-secretase inhibitor-loaded MSNPs in breast and prostate tumor models. Results: ¿-secretase inhibitor-loaded MSNPs inhibited tumor growth in breast and prostate cancer xenografts. Folate conjugation improved the therapeutic outcome in folic acid receptor-positive breast cancer, but not in prostate cancer lacking the receptor. Conclusion: The results demonstrate that therapeutic efficacy is linked to cellular uptake of MSNPs as opposed to tumor accumulation, and show that MSNP-based delivery of ¿-secretase inhibitors is therapeutically effective in both breast and prostate cancer. In this article, we present a model system for a medium-to-high throughput, cost-effective, quantitative evaluation of nanoparticulate drug carriers. Original submitted 12 November 2012; Revised submitted 8 February 2013.