Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) represent a new class of cancer therapeutics. Their design involves a tumor-specific antibody, a linker and a cytotoxic payload. They were designed to allow specific targeting of highly potent cytotoxic agents to tumor cells whilst sparing normal cells. Frequent toxicities that may be driven by any of the components of an ADC have been reported. There are currently more than 50 ADCs in active clinical development, and a further ∼20 that have been discontinued. For this review, the reported toxicities of ADCs were analysed, and the mechanisms for their effects are explored in detail. Methods to reduce toxicities, including dosing strategies and drug design, are discussed. The toxicities reported for active and discontinued drugs are important to drive the rational design and improve the therapeutic index of ADCs of the future.
Keywords: ADC; Antibody-drug conjugate; clinical trials; payload; therapeutic index; toxicity.