Introduction: Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for targeted chemotherapy have evolved in the past 2-3 decades to become a validated clinical cancer therapy modality. While considerable strides have been made in treating hematological tumors, challenges remain in the more difficult-to-treat solid cancers.
Areas covered: The current model for a successful ADC uses a highly potent cytotoxic drug as the payload, with stringent linker requirements and limited substitutions. In solid tumor treatment, a number of ADCs have not progressed beyond Phase I clinical trials, indicating a need to optimize additional factors governing translational success. In this regard, insights from mathematical modeling provide a number of pointers relevant to target antigen and antibody selection. Together with the choice of targets, these can be expected to complement the gains made in ADC design towards the generation of better therapeutics.
Expert opinion: While highly potent microtubule inhibitors continue to dominate the current ADC landscape, there are promising data with other drugs, linkers, and targets that suggest a more flexible model for a successful ADC is evolving. Such changes will undoubtedly lead to the consideration of new targets and constructs to overcome some of the unique natural barriers that impede the delivery of cytotoxic agents in solid tumor.
Keywords: Antibody-drug conjugates; clinical development; drug-antibody ratio; solid cancers; therapeutic index.