Review Article

Engineering nanomedicines through boosting immunogenic cell death for improved cancer immunotherapy

Authors: Jing Gao1,2, Wei-qi Wang1,3, Qing Pei1, Megan S. Lord4, Hai-jun Yu1
1 Key Laboratory of Drug Research & Centre of Pharmaceutics, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, China
2 Peking University Shenzhen Institute, Shenzhen 518055, China
3 School of Pharmacy, Nantong University, Nantong 226001, China
4 Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
Correspondence to: Hai-jun Yu:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-020-0400-z
Received: 25 December 2019
Accepted: 16 March 2020
Advance online: 21 April 2020


Current cancer immunotherapy has limited response rates in a large variety of solid tumors partly due to the low immunogenicity of the tumor cells and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (ITM). A number of clinical cancer treatment modalities, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy, photothermal and photodynamic therapy, have been shown to elicit immunogenicity by inducing immunogenic cell death (ICD). However, ICD-based immunotherapy is restricted by the ITM limiting its efficacy in eliciting a long-term antitumor immune response, and by severe systemic toxicity. To address these challenges, nanomedicine-based drug delivery strategies have been exploited for improving cancer immunotherapy by boosting ICD of the tumor cells. Nanosized drug delivery systems are promising for increasing drug accumulation at the tumor site and codelivering ICD inducers and immune inhibitors to simultaneously elicit the immune response and relieve the ITM. This review highlights the recent advances in nanomedicine-based immunotherapy utilizing ICD-based approaches. A perspective on the clinical translation of nanomedicine- based cancer immunotherapy is also provided.
Keywords: cancer immunotherapy; immunogenic cell death; immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment; nanomedicine; drug delivery systems

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