Injectable hydrogels for personalized cancer immunotherapies

Neda Mohaghegh, Amir Ahari, Fatemeh Zehtabi, Claire Buttles, Saya Davani, Hanna Hoang, Kaylee Tseng, Benjamin Zamanian, Safoora Khosravi, Ariella Daniali, Negar Hosseinzadeh Kouchehbaghi, Isabel Thomas, Hamed Serati Nouri, Danial Khorsandi, Reza Abbasgholizadeh, Mohsen Akbari, Rameshwar Patil, Heemin Kang, Vadim Jucaud, Ali KhademhosseiniAlireza Hassani Najafabadi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The field of cancer immunotherapy has shown significant growth, and researchers are now focusing on effective strategies to enhance and prolong local immunomodulation. Injectable hydrogels (IHs) have emerged as versatile platforms for encapsulating and controlling the release of small molecules and cells, drawing significant attention for their potential to enhance antitumor immune responses while inhibiting metastasis and recurrence. IHs delivering natural killer (NK) cells, T cells, and antigen-presenting cells (APCs) offer a viable method for treating cancer. Indeed, it can bypass the extracellular matrix and gradually release small molecules or cells into the tumor microenvironment, thereby boosting immune responses against cancer cells. This review provides an overview of the recent advancements in cancer immunotherapy using IHs for delivering NK cells, T cells, APCs, chemoimmunotherapy, radio-immunotherapy, and photothermal-immunotherapy. First, we introduce IHs as a delivery matrix, then summarize their applications for the local delivery of small molecules and immune cells to elicit robust anticancer immune responses. Additionally, we discuss recent progress in IHs systems used for local combination therapy, including chemoimmunotherapy, radio-immunotherapy, photothermal-immunotherapy, photodynamic-immunotherapy, and gene-immunotherapy. By comprehensively examining the utilization of IHs in cancer immunotherapy, this review aims to highlight the potential of IHs as effective carriers for immunotherapy delivery, facilitating the development of innovative strategies for cancer treatment. In addition, we demonstrate that using hydrogel-based platforms for the targeted delivery of immune cells, such as NK cells, T cells, and dendritic cells (DCs), has remarkable potential in cancer therapy. These innovative approaches have yielded substantial reductions in tumor growth, showcasing the ability of hydrogels to enhance the efficacy of immune-based treatments. Statement of significance: As cancer immunotherapy continues to expand, the mode of therapeutic agent delivery becomes increasingly critical. This review spotlights the forward-looking progress of IHs, emphasizing their potential to revolutionize localized immunotherapy delivery. By efficiently encapsulating and controlling the release of essential immune components such as T cells, NK cells, APCs, and various therapeutic agents, IHs offer a pioneering pathway to amplify immune reactions, moderate metastasis, and reduce recurrence. Their adaptability further shines when considering their role in emerging combination therapies, including chemoimmunotherapy, radio-immunotherapy, and photothermal-immunotherapy. Understanding IHs' significance in cancer therapy is essential, suggesting a shift in cancer treatment dynamics and heralding a novel period of focused, enduring, and powerful therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-91
Number of pages25
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Acta Materialia Inc.


  • Adoptive cellular immunotherapy
  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Immune cell delivery
  • Injectable hydrogels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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