Cancer vaccines: On the threshold of success

Leisha A. Emens

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Cancer vaccines are a unique approach to cancer therapy. They exert an antitumor effect by engaging the host immune response, and have great potential for circumventing the intrinsic drug resistance that limits standard cancer management. Additional advantages of cancer vaccines are exquisite specificity, low toxicity, and the potential for a durable treatment effect due to immunologic memory. Objectives: This review aims to consider the promise of cancer vaccines, review the current state of cancer vaccine development, and suggest directions for future research. Methods: The scope of this review was defined peer-reviewed information found on Medline, and information found on the Internet about Phase III clinical trials that are ongoing and not yet published. Results/conclusions: Multiple Phase III clinical trials have demonstrated the promise and challenges posed by therapeutic vaccines, and defined the next steps in their clinical development. Determining the optimal integration of cancer vaccines with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and biologically targeted therapies, defining predictive biomarkers of immunologic and clinical response, and combining tumor vaccines with new drugs that effectively modulate the antitumor immune response, will ensure that cancer vaccines become part of standard cancer therapy and prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalExpert Opinion on Emerging Drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Biomarkers
  • Cancer vaccine
  • Immune monitoring
  • Immune tolerance
  • Therapeutic resistance
  • Tumor immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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