Aptamers: a novel targeted theranostic platform for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Li, Q., Maier, S. H., Li, P., Peterhansl, J., Belka, C., Mayerle, J., and Mahajan, U. M. (2020). Radiat Oncol 15, 189


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an extremely challenging disease with a high mortality rate and a short overall survival time. The poor prognosis can be explained by aggressive tumor growth, late diagnosis, and therapy resistance. Consistent efforts have been made focusing on early tumor detection and novel drug development. Various strategies aim at increasing target specificity or local enrichment of chemotherapeutics as well as imaging agents in tumor tissue. Aptamers have the potential to provide early detection and permit anti-cancer therapy with significantly reduced side effects. These molecules are in-vitro selected single-stranded oligonucleotides that form stable three-dimensional structures. They are capable of binding to a variety of molecular targets with high affinity and specificity. Several properties such as high binding affinity, the in vitro chemical process of selection, a variety of chemical modifications of molecular platforms for diverse function, non-immunoreactivity, modification of bioavailability, and manipulation of pharmacokinetics make aptamers attractive targets compared to conventional cell-specific ligands. To explore the potential of aptamers for early diagnosis and targeted therapy of PDAC - as single agents and in combination with radiotherapy - we summarize the generation process of aptamers and their application as biosensors, biomarker detection tools, targeted imaging tracers, and drug-delivery carriers. We are furthermore discussing the current implementation aptamers in clinical trials, their limitations and possible future utilization.