Lymph-directed immunotherapy – Harnessing endogenous lymphatic distribution pathways for enhanced therapeutic outcomes in cancer

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16 Citations (Scopus)


The advent of immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of some cancers. Harnessing the immune system to improve tumour cell killing is now standard clinical practice and immunotherapy is the first line of defence for many cancers that historically, were difficult to treat. A unifying concept in cancer immunotherapy is the activation of the immune system to mount an attack on malignant cells, allowing the body to recognise, and in some cases, eliminate cancer. However, in spite of a significant proportion of patients that respond well to treatment, there remains a subset who are non-responders and a number of cancers that cannot be treated with these therapies. These limitations highlight the need for targeted delivery of immunomodulators to both tumours and the effector cells of the immune system, the latter being highly concentrated in the lymphatic system. In this context, macromolecular therapies may provide a significant advantage. Macromolecules are too large to easily access blood capillaries and instead typically exhibit preferential uptake via the lymphatic system. In contexts where immune cells are the therapeutic target, particularly in cancer therapy, this may be advantageous. In this review, we examine in brief the current immunotherapy approaches in cancer and how macromolecular and nanomedicine strategies may improve the therapeutic profiles of these drugs. We subsequently discuss how therapeutics directed either by parenteral or mucosal administration, can be taken up by the lymphatics thereby accessing a larger proportion of the body's immune cells. Finally, we detail drug delivery strategies that have been successfully employed to target the lymphatics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-135
Number of pages21
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Cancer vaccine
  • Checkpoint inhibitor
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lymphatic drug delivery
  • Nanoparticles

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