Immunocytokines and bispecific antibodies: two complementary strategies for the selective activation of immune cells at the tumor site

Immunol Rev. 2016 Mar;270(1):178-92. doi: 10.1111/imr.12391.


The activation of the immune system for a selective removal of tumor cells represents an attractive strategy for the treatment of metastatic malignancies, which cannot be cured by existing methodologies. In this review, we examine the design and therapeutic potential of immunocytokines and bispecific antibodies, two classes of bifunctional products which can selectively activate the immune system at the tumor site. Certain protein engineering aspects, such as the choice of the antibody format, are common to both classes of therapeutic agents and can have a profound impact on tumor homing performance in vivo of individual products. However, immunocytokines and bispecific antibodies display different mechanisms of action. Future research activities will reveal whether an additive of even synergistic benefit can be obtained from the judicious combination of these two types of biopharmaceutical agents.

Keywords: antibody engineering; armed antibodies; bispecific antibodies; immunocytokines; immunotherapy of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / chemistry
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / genetics
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / therapeutic use*
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytokines / chemistry
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Engineering


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cytokines