The stimulation of a tumour-specific T-cell response has several theoretical advantages over other forms of cancer treatment. First, T cells can home in to antigen-expressing tumour deposits no matter where they are located in the body-even in deep tissue beds. Additionally, T cells can continue to proliferate in response to immunogenic proteins expressed in cancer until all the tumour cells are eradicated. Finally, immunological memory can be generated, allowing for eradication of antigen-bearing tumours if they reoccur. We will highlight two direct methods of stimulating tumour-specific T-cell immunity: active immunisation with cancer vaccines and infusion of competent T cells via adoptive T-cell treatment. Preclinical and clinical studies have shown that modulation of the tumour microenvironment to support the immune response is as important as stimulation of the most appropriate effector T cells. The future of T-cell immunity stimulation to treat cancer will need combination approaches focused on both the tumour and the T cell.
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