Theranostics 2019; 9(25):7906-7923. doi:10.7150/thno.38425


Recent advances and challenges of repurposing nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems to enhance cancer immunotherapy

Seungho Lim1*, Jooho Park1*, Man Kyu Shim1, Wooram Um1, Hong Yeol Yoon1, Ju Hee Ryu1, Dong-Kwon Lim2, Kwangmeyung Kim1,2✉

1. Center for Theragnosis, Biomedical Research Institute, Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), 5, Hwarangno 14-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, 02792, Republic of Korea
2. KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology, Korea University, 145, Anam-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, 02841, Republic of Korea.
*These authors contributed equally to this work

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Lim S, Park J, Shim MK, Um W, Yoon HY, Ryu JH, Lim DK, Kim K. Recent advances and challenges of repurposing nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems to enhance cancer immunotherapy. Theranostics 2019; 9(25):7906-7923. doi:10.7150/thno.38425. Available from

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Cancer immunotherapy is an attractive treatment option under clinical settings. However, the major challenges of immunotherapy include limited patient response, limited tumor specificity, immune-related adverse events, and immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Therefore, nanoparticle (NP)-based drug delivery has been used to not only increase the efficacy of immunotherapeutic agents, but it also significantly reduces the toxicity. In particular, NP-based drug delivery systems alter the pharmacokinetic (PK) profile of encapsulated or conjugated immunotherapeutic agents to targeted cancer cells or immune cells and facilitate the delivery of multiple therapeutic combinations to targeted cells using single NPs. Recently, advanced NP-based drug delivery systems were effectively utilized in cancer immunotherapy to reduce the toxic side effects and immune-related adverse events. Repurposing these NPs as delivery systems of immunotherapeutic agents may overcome the limitations of current cancer immunotherapy. In this review, we focus on recent advances in NP-based immunotherapeutic delivery systems, such as immunogenic cell death (ICD)-inducing drugs, cytokines and adjuvants for promising cancer immunotherapy. Finally, we discuss the challenges facing current NP-based drug delivery systems that need to be addressed for successful clinical application.

Keywords: Nanoparticles, drug delivery system, immunogenic cell death, adjuvants, cytokines, and cancer immunotherapy