Modulating the function of immune receptors with antibodies is ushering in a new era in cancer immunotherapy. With the notable exception of PD-1 blockade used as monotherapy, immune modulation can be associated with significant toxicities that are expected to escalate with the development of increasingly potent immune therapies. A general way to reduce toxicity is to target immune potentiating drugs to the tumor or immune cells of the patient. This Crossroads article discusses a new class of nucleic acidbased immune-modulatory drugs that are targeted to the tumor or to the immune system by conjugation to oligonucleotide aptamer ligands. Cell-free chemically synthesized short oligonucleotide aptamers represent a novel and emerging platform technology for generating ligands with desired specificity that offer exceptional versatility and feasibility in terms of development, manufacture, and conjugation to an oligonucleotide cargo. In proof-of-concept studies, aptamer ligands were used to target immune-modulatory siRNAs or aptamers to induce neoantigens in the tumor cells, limit costimulation to the tumor lesion, or enhance the persistence of vaccine-induced immunity. Using increasingly relevant murine models, the aptamer-targeted immune-modulatory drugs engendered protective antitumor immunity that was superior to that of current "gold-standard" therapies in terms of efficacy and lack of toxicity or reduced toxicity. To overcome immune exhaustion aptamer-targeted siRNA conjugates could be used to downregulate intracellular mediators of exhaustion that integrate signals from multiple inhibitory receptors. Recent advances in aptamer development and second-generation aptamerdrug conjugates suggest that we have only scratched the surface.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research