The renaissance of cancer immunotherapy is, nowadays, a reality. In the near future, it will be very likely among the first-line treatments for cancer patients. There are several different approaches to modulate the immune system to fight against tumor maladies but, so far, monoclonal antibodies may currently be the most successful immuno-tools used to that end. The number of ongoing clinical trials with monoclonal antibodies has been increasing exponentially over the last few years upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the first immune-checkpoint blockade antibodies. In spite of the proved antitumor effect of these reagents, the unleashing of the immune system to fight cancer cells has a cost, namely auto-inflammatory toxicity. Additionally, only a small fraction of all patients treated with immune-checkpoint antibodies have a clinical benefit. Taking into account all this, it is urgent new therapeutic reagents are developed with a contained toxicity that could facilitate the combination of different immune-modulating pathways to broaden the antitumor effect in most cancer patients. Based on preclinical data, oligonucleotide aptamers could fulfill this need. Aptamers have not only been successfully used as antagonists of immune-checkpoint receptors, but also as agonists of immunostimulatory receptors in cancer immunotherapy. The simplicity of aptamers to be engineered for the specific delivery of different types of cargos to tumor cells and immune cells so as to harvest an efficient antitumor immune response gives aptamers a significant advantage over antibodies. In this review all of the recent applications of aptamers in cancer immunotherapy will be described.
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