Review Article

Cancer nanomedicine meets immunotherapy: opportunities and challenges

Authors: Qingxue Sun1, Xiangyang Bai1, Alexandros Marios Sofias1, Roy van der Meel2, Eduardo Ruiz-Hernandez3, Gert Storm4,5, Wim E. Hennink4, Bruno De Geest6, Fabian Kiessling1,7, Hai-jun Yu8, Twan Lammers1,4,5, Yang Shi1
1 Institute for Experimental Molecular Imaging, Uniklinik RWTH Aachen and Helmholtz Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Medicine, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2 Laboratory of Chemical Biology, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Complex Molecular Systems, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
3 School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
4 Department of Pharmaceutics, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
5 Department of Targeted Therapeutics, MIRA Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
6 Department of Pharmaceutics, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
7 Fraunhofer MEVIS, Institute for Medical Image Computing, Aachen, Germany
8 State Key Laboratory of Drug Research & Center of Pharmaceutics, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, China
Correspondence to: Twan Lammers:, Yang Shi:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-020-0448-9
Received: 20 March 2020
Accepted: 17 May 2020
Advance online: 17 June 2020


Cancer nanomedicines have shown promise in combination immunotherapy, thus far mostly preclinically but also already in clinical trials. Combining nanomedicines with immunotherapy aims to reinforce the cancer-immunity cycle, via potentiating key steps in the immune reaction cascade, namely antigen release, antigen processing, antigen presentation, and immune cell-mediated killing. Combination nano-immunotherapy can be realized via three targeting strategies, i.e., by targeting cancer cells, targeting the tumor immune microenvironment, and targeting the peripheral immune system. The clinical potential of nano-immunotherapy has recently been demonstrated in a phase III trial in which nano-albumin paclitaxel (Abraxane®) was combined with atezolizumab (Tecentriq®) for the treatment of patients suffering from advanced triple-negative breast cancer. In the present paper, besides strategies and initial (pre)clinical success stories, we also discuss several key challenges in nano-immunotherapy. Taken together, nanomedicines combined with immunotherapy are gaining significant attention, and it is anticipated that they will play an increasingly important role in clinical cancer therapy.
Keywords: nanomedicine; immunotherapy; targeting; combination therapy; clinical translation

Article Options

Download Citation

Cited times in Scopus