RNA-based therapeutics: current progress and future prospects

Chem Biol. 2012 Jan 27;19(1):60-71. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2011.12.008.


Recent advances of biological drugs have broadened the scope of therapeutic targets for a variety of human diseases. This holds true for dozens of RNA-based therapeutics currently under clinical investigation for diseases ranging from genetic disorders to HIV infection to various cancers. These emerging drugs, which include therapeutic ribozymes, aptamers, and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), demonstrate the unprecedented versatility of RNA. However, RNA is inherently unstable, potentially immunogenic, and typically requires a delivery vehicle for efficient transport to the targeted cells. These issues have hindered the clinical progress of some RNA-based drugs and have contributed to mixed results in clinical testing. Nevertheless, promising results from recent clinical trials suggest that these barriers may be overcome with improved synthetic delivery carriers and chemical modifications of the RNA therapeutics. This review focuses on the clinical results of siRNA, RNA aptamer, and ribozyme therapeutics and the prospects for future successes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Oligonucleotides / chemistry
  • Oligoribonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Catalytic / therapeutic use*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / therapeutic use*


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Oligoribonucleotides, Antisense
  • RNA, Catalytic
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • locked nucleic acid