Nanoscale artificial antigen presenting cells for cancer immunotherapy

Kelly R. Rhodes, Jordan J. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Exciting developments in cancer nanomedicine include the engineering of nanocarriers to deliver drugs locally to tumors, increasing efficacy and reducing off-target toxicity associated with chemotherapies. Despite nanocarrier advances, metastatic cancer remains challenging to treat due to barriers that prevent nanoparticles from gaining access to remote, dispersed, and poorly vascularized metastatic tumors. Instead of relying on nanoparticles to directly destroy every tumor cell, immunotherapeutic approaches target immune cells to train them to recognize and destroy tumor cells, which, due to the amplification and specificity of an adaptive immune response, may be a more effective approach to treating metastatic cancer. One novel technology for cancer immunotherapy is the artificial antigen presenting cell (aAPC), a micro- or nanoparticle-based system that mimics an antigen presenting cell by presenting important signal proteins to T cells to activate them against cancer. Signal 1 molecules target the T cell receptor and facilitate antigen recognition by T cells, signal 2 molecules provide costimulation essential for T cell activation, and signal 3 consists of secreted cues that further stimulate T cells. Classic microscale aAPCs present signal 1 and 2 molecules on their surface, and biodegradable polymeric aAPCs offer the additional capability of releasing signal 3 cytokines and costimulatory molecules that modulate the T cell response. Although particles of approximately 5–10 μm in diameter may be considered the optimal size of an aAPC for ex vivo cellular expansion, nanoscale aAPCs have demonstrated superior in vivo pharmacokinetic properties and are more suitable for systemic injection. As sufficient surface contact between T cells and aAPCs is essential for activation, nano-aAPCs with microscale contact surface areas have been created through engineering approaches such as shape manipulation and nanoparticle clustering. These design strategies have demonstrated greatly enhanced efficacy of nano-aAPCs, endowing nano-aAPCs with the potential to be among the next generation of cancer nanomedicines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-18
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular Immunology
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Cancer
  • Immunoengineering
  • Nanomedicine
  • Polymer
  • aAPC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology


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