Aptamers: Cutting edge of cancer therapies

Sarah Shigdar, Brett Schrand, Paloma H. Giangrande, Vittorio de Franciscis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The development of an aptamer-based therapeutic has rapidly progressed following the first two reports in the 1990s, underscoring the advantages of aptamer drugs associated with their unique binding properties. In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first therapeutic aptamer for the treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration, Macugen developed by NeXstar. Since then, eleven aptamers have successfully entered clinical trials for various therapeutic indications. Despite some of the pre-clinical and clinical successes of aptamers as therapeutics, no aptamer has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer. This review highlights the most recent and cutting-edge approaches in the development of aptamers for the treatment of cancer types most refractory to conventional therapies. Herein, we will review (1) the development of aptamers to enhance anti-cancer immunity and as delivery tools for inducing the expression of immunogenic neoantigens; (2) the development of the most promising therapeutic aptamers designed to target the hard-to-treat cancers such as brain tumors; and (3) the development of “carrier” aptamers able to target and penetrate tumors and metastasis, delivering RNA therapeutics to the cytosol and nucleus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2396-2411
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 4 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • aptamer
  • brain tumors
  • cancer
  • cancer stem cells
  • delivery
  • immunity
  • RNA therapeutics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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