Aptamers: novelty tools for cancer biology

Ricardo L. Pereira, Isis C. Nascimento, Ana P. Santos, Isabella E.Y. Ogusuku, Claudiana Lameu, Günter Mayer and Henning Ulrich _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:26934-26953. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25260

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Ricardo L. Pereira1, Isis C. Nascimento1, Ana P. Santos1, Isabella E.Y. Ogusuku1, Claudiana Lameu1, Günter Mayer2,3 and Henning Ulrich1

1Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Chemistry, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP 05508-900, Brazil

2Chemical Biology and Chemical Genetics, Life and Medical Sciences (LIMES) Institute, University of Bonn, 53121, Bonn, Germany

3Center of Aptamer Research and Development (CARD), University of Bonn, 53121, Bonn, Germany

Correspondence to:

Henning Ulrich, email: [email protected]

Keywords: aptamers; Cell-SELEX; clinical application; cancer

Received: September 27, 2017    Accepted: March 22, 2018    Published: June 01, 2018


Although the term ‘cancer’ was still over two thousand years away of being coined, the first known cases of the disease date back to about 3000BC, in ancient Egypt. Five thousand years later, still lacking a cure, it has become one of the leading causes of death, killing over half a dozen million people yearly. So far, monoclonal antibodies are the most successful immune-therapy tools when it comes to fighting cancer. The number of clinical trials that use them has been increasing steadily during the past few years, especially since the Food and Drug Administration greenlit the use of the first immune-checkpoint blockade antibodies. However, albeit successful, this approach does come with the cost of auto-inflammatory toxicity. Taking this into account, the development of new therapeutic reagents with low toxicity becomes evident, particularly ones acting in tandem with the tools currently at our disposal. Ever since its discovery in the early nineties, aptamer technology has been used for a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic applications. With similar properties to those of monoclonal antibodies, such as high-specificity of recognition and high-affinity binding, and the advantages of being developed using in vitro selection procedures, aptamers quickly became convenient building blocks for the generation of multifunctional constructs. In this review, we discuss the steps involved in the in vitro selection process that leads to functional aptamers - known as Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment - as well as the most recent applications of this technology in diagnostic and treatment of oncological illnesses. Moreover, we also suggest ways to improve such use.

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