Antibody Therapeutics, 2021
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Abstract Most studies focus on the first and second signals of T cell activation. However, the roles of cytokines in immunotherapy are not fully understood, and cytokines have not been widely used in patient care. Clinical application of cytokines is limited due to their short half-life in vivo, severe toxicity at therapeutic doses, and overall lack of efficacy. Several modifications have been engineered to extend their half-life and increase tumor targeting, including polyethylene glycol (PEG) conjugation, fusion to tumor-targeting antibodies, and alteration of cytokine/cell receptor binding affinity. These modifications demonstrate an improvement in either increased antitumor efficacy or reduced toxicity. However, these cytokine engineering strategies may still be improved further, as each strategy poses advantages and disadvantages in the delicate balance of targeting tumor cells, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, and peripheral immune cells. This review focuses on selected cytokines, including IFN-α, IL-2, IL-15, IL-21, and IL-12, in both preclinical studies and clinical applications. We review next-generation designs of these cytokines that improve half-life, tumor targeting, and antitumor efficacy. We also present our perspectives on the development of new strategies to potentiate cytokine-based immunotherapy.