Enzyme-activatable anticancer prodrugs are modified medications that are composed of an anticancer drug, cleavable linker, and functional moiety. The purpose of such a prodrug structure is to generate multipurpose functions that traditional drugs cannot perform and to reduce the toxicity of conventional anticancer drugs by the mask of the cleavable linker. Once the cleavable linker is degraded via a specific chemical reaction in the cancer microenvironment, the cytotoxicity of the degraded prodrugs is selectively recovered. Among many factors that cleave the linker, we focus on the overexpressed enzymes in cancer. Because of the selective enzymatic degradation of the cleavable linker and the high local concentration of specific enzymes in cancer, the enzyme-activatable prodrugs could show low toxicity in normal tissues, while showing comparable anticancer effect in tumors. In addition, some prodrugs provide additional features, such as cancer imaging, drug release monitoring, tumor targeting, and enhanced stability, which conventional anticancer drugs cannot possess. In this review, we summarize currently developed enzyme-activatable prodrugs according to their activating enzymes, and categorize them by their additional functions, e.g. targeting, imaging, and delivery. This summary of enzyme-activatable prodrugs may help in the design of anticancer prodrugs, and in the establishment of a personalized cancer treatment strategy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Science (NRF-2019R1A2C3006283), the KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology (Korea University), and the Intramural Research Program of KIST.
© 2020 American Chemical Society.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering
- Pharmaceutical Science
- Organic Chemistry