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Cancer therapy with antibodies.

The greatest challenge in cancer therapy is to eradicate cancer cells with minimal damage to normal cells. Targeted therapy has been developed to meet that challenge, showing a substantially increased therapeutic index compared with conventional cancer therapies. Antibodies are important members of the family of targeted therapeutic agents because of their extraordinarily high specificity to the target antigens. Therapeutic antibodies use a range of mechanisms that directly or indirectly kill the cancer cells. Early antibodies were developed to directly antagonize targets on cancer cells. This was followed by advancements in linker technologies that allowed the production of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) that guide cytotoxic payloads to the cancer cells. Improvement in our understanding of the biology of T cells led to the production of immune checkpoint-inhibiting antibodies that indirectly kill the cancer cells through activation of the T cells. Even more recently, bispecific antibodies were synthetically designed to redirect the T cells of a patient to kill the cancer cells. In this Review, we summarize the different approaches used by therapeutic antibodies to target cancer cells. We discuss their mechanisms of action, the structural basis for target specificity, clinical applications and the ongoing research to improve efficacy and reduce toxicity.

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