Recent Trends in in Situ Enzyme-Activatable Prodrugs for Targeted Cancer Therapy

In Cheol Sun, Hong Yeol Yoon, Dong Kwon Lim, Kwangmeyung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1012-1024
Number of pages13
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr 15

Bibliographical note

Funding 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.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Recent Trends in in Situ Enzyme-Activatable Prodrugs for Targeted Cancer Therapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this