Inhibitors of Immune Checkpoints: Small Molecule- and Peptide-Based Approaches

Natalie Fuchs, Longfei Zhang, Laura Calvo-Barreiro, Katarzyna Kuncewicz, Moustafa Gabr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The revolutionary progress in cancer immunotherapy, particularly the advent of immune checkpoint inhibitors, marks a significant milestone in the fight against malignancies. However, the majority of clinically employed immune checkpoint inhibitors are monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) with several limitations, such as poor oral bioavailability and immune-related adverse effects (irAEs). Another major limitation is the restriction of the efficacy of mAbs to a subset of cancer patients, which triggered extensive research efforts to identify alternative approaches in targeting immune checkpoints aiming to overcome the restricted efficacy of mAbs. This comprehensive review aims to explore the cutting-edge developments in targeting immune checkpoints, focusing on both small molecule- and peptide-based approaches. By delving into drug discovery platforms, we provide insights into the diverse strategies employed to identify and optimize small molecules and peptides as inhibitors of immune checkpoints. In addition, we discuss recent advances in nanomaterials as drug carriers, providing a basis for the development of small molecule- and peptide-based platforms for cancer immunotherapy. Ongoing research focused on the discovery of small molecules and peptide-inspired agents targeting immune checkpoints paves the way for developing orally bioavailable agents as the next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer therapeutics
  • drug discovery
  • immunomodulators
  • immunotherapy
  • nanomaterials
  • peptides
  • small molecules


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