Major indications for use of peptide-based therapeutics include endocrine functions (especially diabetes mellitus and obesity), infectious diseases, and cancer. Whereas some peptide pharmaceuticals are drugs, acting as agonists or antagonists to directly treat cancer, others (including peptide diagnostics and tumour-targeting pharmaceuticals) use peptides to 'shuttle' a chemotherapeutic agent or a tracer to the tumour and allow sensitive imaging or targeted therapy. Significant progress has been made in the last few years to overcome disadvantages in peptide design such as short half-life, fast proteolytic cleavage, and low oral bioavailability. These advances include peptide PEGylation, lipidisation or multimerisation; the introduction of peptidomimetic elements into the sequences; and innovative uptake strategies such as liposomal, capsule or subcutaneous formulations. This review focuses on peptides targeting G protein-coupled receptors that are promising drug candidates or that have recently entered the pharmaceutical market.
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