Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 11, pp 2171–2183 | Cite as

Cancer targeting peptides

  • Mona Kalmouni
  • Sumaya Al-Hosani
  • Mazin MagzoubEmail author


Despite continuing advances in the development of biomacromolecules for therapeutic purposes, successful application of these often large and hydrophilic molecules has been hindered by their inability to efficiently traverse the cellular plasma membrane. In recent years, cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) have received considerable attention as a promising class of delivery vectors due to their ability to mediate the efficient import of a large number of cargoes in vitro and in vivo. However, the lack of target specificity of CPPs remains a major obstacle to their clinical development. To address this issue, researchers have developed strategies in which chemotherapeutic drugs are conjugated to cancer targeting peptides (CTPs) that exploit the unique characteristics of the tumor microenvironment or cancer cells, thereby improving cancer cell specificity. This review highlights several of these strategies that are currently in use, and discusses how multi-component nanoparticles conjugated to CTPs can be designed to provide a more efficient cancer therapeutic delivery strategy.


Hypoxia Low pH Metabolism Nanoplatforms Proteases Targeted therapy Tumors 



The authors thank Professor David Male (The Open University) for critical reading of the manuscript. This work was supported by funding from NYU Abu Dhabi (Research Grant) and an ADEK Award for Research Excellence Grant (AARE17-089) to M.M.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology ProgramNew York University Abu DhabiAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates

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