Introduction: Despite the progress made in the past 20 years in understanding the molecular events leading to the formation of cancer, the success of targeted antitumor agents in solid tumors has lagged behind the scientific discoveries. The most difficult to treat patient segments are those with refractory solid tumors, resistant to standard chemotherapy, and novel therapeutic compounds with improved therapeutic indexes are needed. Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) are poised to become an important class of cancer therapeutics, as evidenced by the promising objective response rates when administered as single agents to chemorefractory cancer patients.
Areas covered: The basic concept for ADCs is to combine the strengths of the two most successful classes of therapeutic compounds developed in oncology, the high selectivity of antibodies with the unrivaled potency of small molecules, with the goal to improve the therapeutic index. Currently, approximately 60 ADCs are being developed in oncology. Among them, about 20 are undergoing clinical testing, the majority of which are tubulin inhibitor-based immunoconjugates. Herein, we review ADCs targeting solid tumors, with the focus on 11 programs currently undergoing clinical development.
Expert opinion: Key challenges the ADC field is facing, including potency and safety, can be addressed effectively by introducing novel research concepts with transformational potential for ADC development.