Theranostics 2020; 10(20):9214-9229. doi:10.7150/thno.45125


Targeting phosphatidylserine for Cancer therapy: prospects and challenges

Wenguang Chang1✉, Hongge Fa1,2, Dandan Xiao1,2, Jianxun Wang2

1. Institute for Translational Medicine, The Affiliated Hospital, College of medicine, Qingdao University, Qingdao, China.
2. School of Basic Medical Sciences, College of medicine, Qingdao University, Qingdao, China.

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Chang W, Fa H, Xiao D, Wang J. Targeting phosphatidylserine for Cancer therapy: prospects and challenges. Theranostics 2020; 10(20):9214-9229. doi:10.7150/thno.45125. Available from

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Cancer is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. Despite major improvements in current therapeutic methods, ideal therapeutic strategies for improved tumor elimination are still lacking. Recently, immunotherapy has attracted much attention, and many immune-active agents have been approved for clinical use alone or in combination with other cancer drugs. However, some patients have a poor response to these agents. New agents and strategies are needed to overcome such deficiencies. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an essential component of bilayer cell membranes and is normally present in the inner leaflet. In the physiological state, PS exposure on the external leaflet not only acts as an engulfment signal for phagocytosis in apoptotic cells but also participates in blood coagulation, myoblast fusion and immune regulation in nonapoptotic cells. In the tumor microenvironment, PS exposure is significantly increased on the surface of tumor cells or tumor cell-derived microvesicles, which have innate immunosuppressive properties and facilitate tumor growth and metastasis. To date, agents targeting PS have been developed, some of which are under investigation in clinical trials as combination drugs for various cancers. However, controversial results are emerging in laboratory research as well as in clinical trials, and the efficiency of PS-targeting agents remains uncertain. In this review, we summarize recent progress in our understanding of the physiological and pathological roles of PS, with a focus on immune suppressive features. In addition, we discuss current drug developments that are based on PS-targeting strategies in both experimental and clinical studies. We hope to provide a future research direction for the development of new agents for cancer therapy.

Keywords: phosphatidylserine, cancer, T lymphocytes, immunotherapy, bavituximab