Theranostics 2022; 12(3):1321-1332. doi:10.7150/thno.67889 This issue


Exploiting macropinocytosis for drug delivery into KRAS mutant cancer

Huiqin Liu, Feng Qian

School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Structural Biology, and Key Laboratory of Bioorganic Phosphorus Chemistry & Chemical Biology (Ministry of Education), Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, P.R. China.

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Liu H, Qian F. Exploiting macropinocytosis for drug delivery into KRAS mutant cancer. Theranostics 2022; 12(3):1321-1332. doi:10.7150/thno.67889. Available from

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Graphic abstract

KRAS mutations are one of the most common gene mutations linked to cancer, presenting in approximately 25% of all tumors, especially pancreatic, lung, and colorectal cancers. Mutant KRAS has long been considered an undruggable target, stalling progress in direct KRAS targeting for many years, while targeted drug delivery into KRAS mutant cells utilizing their transformed metabolic behavior might present an alternative opportunity. Macropinocytosis, a nonselective, fluid-phase, endocytic route, was found to be upregulated as a metabolic feature in KRAS-driven tumors and plays a critical role in nutrient acquisition from extracellular fluids. With the observation that a variety of drug delivery systems could be internalized by KRAS mutant cancer cells through macropinocytosis, exploiting macropinocytosis for intracellular delivery of therapeutics into KRAS mutant tumor cells is emerging as a new drug delivery expedition. In this article, we summarized cancer biology studies that examined KRAS mutation-induced macropinocytosis, reviewed recent studies exploiting macropinocytosis enhancement for KRAS mutant cancer cell-selective drug delivery, and discussed the potential opportunities, challenges and pitfalls of this strategy.

Keywords: Macropinocytosis, KRAS, drug delivery, pancreatic cancer