Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) consist of an antibody attached to a cytotoxic drug by means of a linker. ADCs provide a way to couple the specificity of a monoclonal antibody (mAb) to the cytotoxicity of a small-molecule drug and, therefore, are promising new therapies for cancer. ADCs are prodrugs that are inactive in circulation but exert their cytotoxicity upon binding to the target cancer cell. Earlier unsuccessful attempts to generate ADCs with therapeutic value have emphasized the important role each component plays in determining the efficacy and safety of the final ADC. Scientific advances in engineering antibodies for maximum efficacy as anticancer agents, identification of highly cytotoxic molecules, and generation of linkers with increased stability in circulation have all contributed to the development of the many ADCs that are currently in clinical trials. This review discusses parameters that guide the selection of the components of an ADC to increase its therapeutic window, provides a brief look at ADCs currently in clinical trials, and discusses future challenges in this field.
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