Current medicinal chemistry 27 (34) 5654-5674 [2020-10-11; online 2020-10-11]
The recent success of checkpoint blocking antibodies has sparked a revolution in cancer immunotherapy. Checkpoint inhibition activates the adaptive immune system leading to durable responses across a range of tumor types, although this response is limited to patient populations with pre-existing tumor-infiltrating T cells. Strategies to stimulate the immune system to prime an antitumor response are of intense interest and several groups are now working to develop agents to activate the Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs), proteins which detect pathogenic and damageassociated molecules and respond by activating the innate immune response. Although early efforts focused on the Toll-like Receptor (TLR) family of membrane-bound PRRs, TLR activation has been associated with both pro- and antitumor effects. Nonetheless, TLR agonists have been deployed as potential anticancer agents in a range of clinical trials. More recently, the cytosolic PRR Stimulator of IFN Genes (STING) has attracted attention as another promising target for anticancer drug development, with early clinical data beginning to emerge. Besides STING, several other cytosolic PRR targets have likewise captured the interest of the drug discovery community, including the RIG-Ilike Receptors (RLRs) and NOD-like Receptors (NLRs). In this review, we describe the outlook for activators of PRRs as anticancer therapeutic agents and contrast the earlier generation of TLR agonists with the emerging focus on cytosolic PRR activators, both as single agents and in combination with other cancer immunotherapies.