Antibody-Drug Conjugates for the Treatment of Breast Cancer

Chiara Corti, Federica Giugliano, Eleonora Nicolò, Liliana Ascione, Giuseppe Curigliano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Metastatic breast cancer (BC) is currently an incurable disease. Besides endocrine therapy and targeted agents, chemotherapy is often used in the treatment of this disease. However, lack of tumor specificity and toxicity associated with dose exposure limit the manageability of cytotoxic agents. Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are a relatively new class of anticancer drugs. By merging the selectivity of monoclonal antibodies with the cytotoxic properties of chemotherapy, they improve the therapeutic index of antineoplastic agents. Three core components characterize ADCs: the antibody, directed to a target antigen; the payload, typically a cytotoxic agent; a linker, connecting the antibody to the payload. The most studied target antigen is HER2 with some agents, such as trastuzumab deruxtecan, showing activity not only in HER2-positive, but also in HER2-low BC patients, possibly due to a bystander effect. This property to provide a cytotoxic impact also against off-target cancer cells may overcome the intratumoral heterogeneity of some target antigens. Other cancer-associated antigens represent a strategy for the development of ADCs against triple-negative BC, as shown by the recent approval of sacituzumab govitecan. In this review, we discuss the current landscape of ADC development for the treatment of BC, as well as the possible limitations of this treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 9 2021


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