Targeting tumors with nanobodies for cancer imaging and therapy

Sabrina Oliveira, Raimond Heukers, Jirawas Sornkom, Robbert J Kok, Paul M P van Bergen En Henegouwen

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The use of monoclonal antibodies has revolutionized both cancer therapy and cancer imaging. Antibodies have been used to directly inhibit tumor cell proliferation or to target drugs to tumors. Also in molecular imaging, monoclonal antibodies have found their way to the clinic. Nevertheless, distribution within tumors is hampered by their size, leading to insufficient efficacy of cancer treatment and irregular imaging. An attractive alternative for monoclonal antibodies are nanobodies or VHHs. These are the variable domain of heavy-chain antibodies from animals from the Camelidae family that were first discovered in 1993. Stimulated by the ease of nanobody selection, production, and low immunogenicity potential, a number of nanobodies specific to different disease-related targets have been developed. For cancer therapy, nanobodies have been employed as antagonistic drugs, and more recently, as targeting moieties of effector-domaINS and of drug delivery systems. In parallel, nanobodies have also been employed for molecular imaging with modalities such as nuclear and optical imaging. In this review, we discuss recent developments in the application of nanobodies as targeting moieties in cancer therapy and cancer imaging. With such a wide range of successful applications, nanobodies have become much more than simple antagonists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-17
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2013


  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Neoplasms
  • Optical Imaging
  • Journal Article
  • Review


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