Tumor-Targeting Peptides Search Strategy for the Delivery of Therapeutic and Diagnostic Molecules to Tumor Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 30;22(1):314. doi: 10.3390/ijms22010314.


Background: The combination of the unique properties of cancer cells makes it possible to find specific ligands that interact directly with the tumor, and to conduct targeted tumor therapy. Phage display is one of the most common methods for searching for specific ligands. Bacteriophages display peptides, and the peptides themselves can be used as targeting molecules for the delivery of diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Phage display can be performed both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, it is possible to carry out the phage display on cells pre-enriched for a certain tumor marker, for example, CD44 and CD133.

Methods: For this work we used several methods, such as phage display, sequencing, cell sorting, immunocytochemistry, phage titration.

Results: We performed phage display using different screening systems (in vitro and in vivo), different phage libraries (Ph.D-7, Ph.D-12, Ph.D-C7C) on CD44+/CD133+ and without enrichment U-87 MG cells. The binding efficiency of bacteriophages displayed tumor-targeting peptides on U-87 MG cells was compared in vitro. We also conducted a comparative analysis in vivo of the specificity of the accumulation of selected bacteriophages in the tumor and in the control organs (liver, brain, kidney and lungs).

Conclusions: The screening in vivo of linear phage peptide libraries for glioblastoma was the most effective strategy for obtaining tumor-targeting peptides providing targeted delivery of diagnostic and therapeutic agents to glioblastoma.

Keywords: CD133; CD44; cancer stem cells (CSCs); fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS); glioblastoma; immunocytochemistry; phage display; tumor-targeting peptides.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriophages
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Surface Display Techniques
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides / chemistry*
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells
  • Pathology, Molecular*
  • Peptide Library
  • Peptides / chemistry*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell-Penetrating Peptides
  • Drug Carriers
  • Ligands
  • Peptide Library
  • Peptides