Although immunotherapy has long held out promise as a specific, potent approach to cancer therapy, clinical applications have been unrewarding to date. However, advances in gene transfer technology and basic immunology have opened new avenues to stimulate antitumor immune responses including immunogene therapy. Many different approaches to immunogene therapy have been identified. These include transferring genes encoding proinflammatory proteins to tumor cells, suppressing immunosuppressive gene expression, and transferring proinflammatory genes and/or tumor antigen genes to professional antigen-presenting cells. In some cases, genes are transferred to tumor or antigen-presenting cells in situ. In others, gene transfer is performed ex vivo as part of preparing an anticancer vaccine. We discuss the underlying approach, relative success, and clinical application of various cancer immunogene therapy strategies, paying particular attention to immunogene therapy vaccines. Large numbers of preclinical studies have been reported, but only scattered clinical trial results have appeared in the literature. Although very successful preclinically, the ideal cancer immunogene therapy approach remains to be determined and will likely vary with tumor type. Clinical impact may be improved in the future as treatment protocols are refined.
Copyright 2003 National Science Council, ROC and S. Karger AG, Basel