Aptamer-related technologies represent a revolutionary advancement in the capacity to rapidly develop new classes of targeting ligands. Structurally distinct RNA and DNA oligonucleotides, aptamers mimic small, protein-binding molecules and exhibit high binding affinity and selectivity. Although their molecular weight is relatively small—approximately one-tenth that of monoclonal antibodies—their complex tertiary folded structures create sufficient recognition surface area for tight interaction with target molecules. Additionally, unlike antibodies, aptamers can be readily chemically synthesized and modified. In addition, aptamers’ long storage period and low immunogenicity are favorable properties for clinical utility. Due to their flexibility of chemical modification, aptamers are conjugated to other chemical entities including chemotherapeutic agents, siRNA, nanoparticles, and solid phase surfaces for therapeutic and diagnostic applications. However, as relatively small sized oligonucleotides, aptamers present several challenges for successful clinical translation. Their short plasma half-lives due to nuclease degradation and rapid renal excretion necessitate further structural modification of aptamers for clinical application. Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the first aptamer drug, Macugen®
(pegaptanib), which treats wet-age-related macular degeneration, several aptamer therapeutics for oncology have followed and shown promise in pre-clinical models as well as clinical trials. This review discusses the advantages and challenges of aptamers and introduces therapeutic aptamers under investigation and in clinical trials for cancer treatments.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited