From Immunotoxins to Suicide Toxin Delivery Approaches: Is There a Clinical Opportunity?

Toxins (Basel). 2022 Aug 23;14(9):579. doi: 10.3390/toxins14090579.


Suicide gene therapy is a relatively novel form of cancer therapy in which a gene coding for enzymes or protein toxins is delivered through targeting systems such as vesicles, nanoparticles, peptide or lipidic co-adjuvants. The use of toxin genes is particularly interesting since their catalytic activity can induce cell death, damaging in most cases the translation machinery (ribosomes or protein factors involved in protein synthesis) of quiescent or proliferating cells. Thus, toxin gene delivery appears to be a promising tool in fighting cancer. In this review we will give an overview, describing some of the bacterial and plant enzymes studied so far for their delivery and controlled expression in tumor models.

Keywords: cancer; extracellular vesicles; modified RNAs; nanoparticles (NPs); plant ribosome inactivating protein (RIP); suicide gene therapy (SGT); toxins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotoxins* / pharmacology
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Ribosome Inactivating Proteins, Type 1 / pharmacology
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Toxins, Biological* / metabolism


  • Immunotoxins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Ribosome Inactivating Proteins, Type 1
  • Toxins, Biological

Grants and funding

This research was partially funded by the University of L’Aquila, Dept. of Life Health and Environmental Sciences; Grant Fondi Ricerca FFO 2022- BANDO PSD-MESVA 2022. MA has been supported by MIUR–Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (Ministry of Education, University and Research), National Project FSE/FESR–PON Ricerca e Innovazione 2014–2020, grant number AIM1887574, CUP E18H19000350007.