It has been more than 100 years since the first reported attempts to activate a patient's immune system to eradicate developing cancers. Although a few of the subsequent vaccine studies demonstrated clinically significant treatment effects, active immunotherapy has not yet become an established cancer treatment modality. Two recent advances have allowed the design of more specific cancer vaccine approaches: improved molecular biology techniques and a greater understanding of the mechanisms involved in the activation of T cells. These advances have resulted in improved systemic antitumor immune responses in animal models. Because most tumor antigens recognized by T cells are still not known, the tumor cell itself is the best source of immunizing antigens. For this reason, most vaccine approaches currently being tested in the clinics use whole cancer cells that have been genetically modified to express genes that are now known to be critical mediators of immune system activation. In the future, the molecular definition of tumor-specific antigens that are recognized by activated T cells will allow the development of targeted antigen-specific vaccines for the treatment of patients with cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research