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      Aptamers as therapeutics

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          Key Points

          • Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides that fold into defined architectures and bind to targets such as proteins.

          • In binding proteins they often inhibit protein–protein interactions and thereby may elicit therapeutic effects such as antagonism.

          • Aptamers are discovered using SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment), a directed in vitro evolution technique in which large libraries of degenerate oligonucleotides are iteratively and alternately partitioned for target binding. They are then amplified enzymatically until functional sequences are identified by the sequencing of cloned individuals.

          • For most therapeutic purposes, aptamers are truncated to reduce synthesis costs, modified at the sugars and capped at their termini to increase nuclease resistance, and conjugated to polyethylene glycol or another entity to reduce renal filtration rates.

          • The first aptamer approved for a therapeutic application was pegaptanib sodium (Macugen; Pfizer/Eyetech), which was approved in 2004 by the US Food and Drug Administration for macular degeneration.

          • Eight other aptamers are currently undergoing clinical evaluation for various haematology, oncology, ocular and inflammatory indications.

          • Aptamers are ultimately chemically synthesized in a readily scalable process in which specific conjugation points are introduced with defined stereochemistry.

          • Unlike some protein therapeutics, aptamers do not elicit antibodies, and because aptamers generally contain sugars modified at their 2′-positions, Toll-like receptor-mediated innate immune responses are also abrogated.

          • As aptamers are oligonucleotides they can be readily assembled into supramolecular multi-component structures using hybridization.

          • Owing to the fact that binding to appropriate cell-surface targets can lead to internalization, aptamers can also be used to deliver therapeutic cargoes such as small interfering RNA.

          • Supramolecular assemblies of aptamers and delivery agents have already been demonstrated in vivo and may pave the way for further therapeutic strategies with this modality in the future.

          Abstract

          Aptamers are oligonucleotide sequences that are capable of recognizing target proteins with an affinity and specificity rivalling that of antibodies. In this article, Keefe and colleagues discuss the development, properties and therapeutic potential of aptamers, highlighting those currently in the clinic.

          Abstract

          Nucleic acid aptamers can be selected from pools of random-sequence oligonucleotides to bind a wide range of biomedically relevant proteins with affinities and specificities that are comparable to antibodies. Aptamers exhibit significant advantages relative to protein therapeutics in terms of size, synthetic accessibility and modification by medicinal chemistry. Despite these properties, aptamers have been slow to reach the marketplace, with only one aptamer-based drug receiving approval so far. A series of aptamers currently in development may change how nucleic acid therapeutics are perceived. It is likely that in the future, aptamers will increasingly find use in concert with other therapeutic molecules and modalities.

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          Most cited references119

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          Pegaptanib for neovascular age-related macular degeneration.

          Pegaptanib, an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy, was evaluated in the treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration. We conducted two concurrent, prospective, randomized, double-blind, multicenter, dose-ranging, controlled clinical trials using broad entry criteria. Intravitreous injection into one eye per patient of pegaptanib (at a dose of 0.3 mg, 1.0 mg, or 3.0 mg) or sham injections were administered every 6 weeks over a period of 48 weeks. The primary end point was the proportion of patients who had lost fewer than 15 letters of visual acuity at 54 weeks. In the combined analysis of the primary end point (for a total of 1186 patients), efficacy was demonstrated, without a dose-response relationship, for all three doses of pegaptanib (P<0.001 for the comparison of 0.3 mg with sham injection; P<0.001 for the comparison of 1.0 mg with sham injection; and P=0.03 for the comparison of 3.0 mg with sham injection). In the group given pegaptanib at 0.3 mg, 70 percent of patients lost fewer than 15 letters of visual acuity, as compared with 55 percent among the controls (P<0.001). The risk of severe loss of visual acuity (loss of 30 letters or more) was reduced from 22 percent in the sham-injection group to 10 percent in the group receiving 0.3 mg of pegaptanib (P<0.001). More patients receiving pegaptanib (0.3 mg), as compared with sham injection, maintained their visual acuity or gained acuity (33 percent vs. 23 percent; P=0.003). As early as six weeks after beginning therapy with the study drug, and at all subsequent points, the mean visual acuity among patients receiving 0.3 mg of pegaptanib was better than in those receiving sham injections (P<0.002). Among the adverse events that occurred, endophthalmitis (in 1.3 percent of patients), traumatic injury to the lens (in 0.7 percent), and retinal detachment (in 0.6 percent) were the most serious and required vigilance. These events were associated with a severe loss of visual acuity in 0.1 percent of patients. Pegaptanib appears to be an effective therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Its long-term safety is not known. Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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            Therapeutic potential of Toll-like receptor 9 activation.

            In the decade since the discovery that mouse B cells respond to certain unmethylated CpG dinucleotides in bacterial DNA, a specific receptor for these 'CpG motifs' has been identified, Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), and a new approach to immunotherapy has moved into the clinic based on the use of synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) as TLR9 agonists. This review highlights the current understanding of the mechanism of action of these CpG ODN, and provides an overview of the preclinical data and early human clinical trial results using these drugs to improve vaccines and treat cancer, infectious disease and allergy/asthma.
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              Discovery and development of the G-rich oligonucleotide AS1411 as a novel treatment for cancer.

              Certain guanine-rich (G-rich) DNA and RNA molecules can associate intermolecularly or intramolecularly to form four stranded or "quadruplex" structures, which have unusual biophysical and biological properties. Several synthetic G-rich quadruplex-forming oligodeoxynucleotides have recently been investigated as therapeutic agents for various human diseases. We refer to these biologically active G-rich oligonucleotides as aptamers because their activities arise from binding to protein targets via shape-specific recognition (analogous to antibody-antigen binding). As therapeutic agents, the G-rich aptamers may have some advantages over monoclonal antibodies and other oligonucleotide-based approaches. For example, quadruplex oligonucleotides are non-immunogenic, heat stable and they have increased resistance to serum nucleases and enhanced cellular uptake compared to unstructured sequences. In this review, we describe the characteristics and activities of G-rich oligonucleotides. We also give a personal perspective on the discovery and development of AS1411, an antiproliferative G-rich phosphodiester oligonucleotide that is currently being tested as an anticancer agent in Phase II clinical trials. This molecule functions as an aptamer to nucleolin, a multifunctional protein that is highly expressed by cancer cells, both intracellularly and on the cell surface. Thus, the serendipitous discovery of the G-rich oligonucleotides also led to the identification of nucleolin as a new molecular target for cancer therapy.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                andy.ellington@mail.utexas.edu
                Journal
                Nat Rev Drug Discov
                Nat Rev Drug Discov
                Nature Reviews. Drug Discovery
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                1474-1776
                1474-1784
                2010
                : 9
                : 7
                : 537-550
                Affiliations
                GRID grid.89336.37, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9924, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, ; Austin, 78712 Texas USA
                Article
                BFnrd3141
                10.1038/nrd3141
                7097324
                20592747
                1ebd8051-747f-4cfb-af93-66e4f2a12aa7
                © Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved. 2010

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

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                © Springer Nature Limited 2010

                nucleic-acid therapeutics,drug development
                nucleic-acid therapeutics, drug development

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