Endocytosis in cancer and cancer therapy

Nat Rev Cancer. 2023 Jul;23(7):450-473. doi: 10.1038/s41568-023-00574-6. Epub 2023 May 22.


Endocytosis is a complex process whereby cell surface proteins, lipids and fluid from the extracellular environment are packaged, sorted and internalized into cells. Endocytosis is also a mechanism of drug internalization into cells. There are multiple routes of endocytosis that determine the fate of molecules, from degradation in the lysosomes to recycling back to the plasma membrane. The overall rates of endocytosis and temporal regulation of molecules transiting through endocytic pathways are also intricately linked with signalling outcomes. This process relies on an array of factors, such as intrinsic amino acid motifs and post-translational modifications. Endocytosis is frequently disrupted in cancer. These disruptions lead to inappropriate retention of receptor tyrosine kinases on the tumour cell membrane, changes in the recycling of oncogenic molecules, defective signalling feedback loops and loss of cell polarity. In the past decade, endocytosis has emerged as a pivotal regulator of nutrient scavenging, response to and regulation of immune surveillance and tumour immune evasion, tumour metastasis and therapeutic drug delivery. This Review summarizes and integrates these advances into the understanding of endocytosis in cancer. The potential to regulate these pathways in the clinic to improve cancer therapy is also discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Endocytosis* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Membrane Proteins