Antibody-drug conjugates in cancer therapy

Annu Rev Med. 2013;64:15-29. doi: 10.1146/annurev-med-050311-201823. Epub 2012 Oct 3.


An antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) provides the possibility of selectively ablating cancer cells by combining the specificity of a monoclonal antibody (mAb) for a target antigen with the delivery of a highly potent cytotoxic agent. ADC target antigens are typically highly expressed on the surface of cancer cells compared to normal cells. The tumor target, the cytotoxic agent, and the manner in which the agent is attached to the antibody are key determinants of clinical activity and tolerability. Recently, several clinical trials have demonstrated that ADCs achieve higher clinical response rates than unconjugated mAbs targeting the same cell surface antigen. Brentuximab vedotin represents one such ADC that has recently been approved for the treatment of relapsed Hodgkin and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphomas--both characterized by high expression of the target antigen, CD30, on the surface of malignant cells. This review summarizes key characteristics of current, clinically active ADCs and highlights recent clinical data illustrating the benefit of antibody-targeted delivery of cytotoxic agents to cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / immunology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Immunoconjugates / administration & dosage
  • Immunoconjugates / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Immunoconjugates