Scaling up experimental protocols from rodents to humans is often not a straightforward procedure, and this particularly applies to cancer vaccines, where vaccination technology must be especially effective to overcome a variety of immune suppressive mechanisms. DNA electroporation (DNA-EP) and adenoviral vectors (Ad) have shown high potency and therapeutic efficacy for different antigens in several pre-clinical models. To evaluate the ability of DNA-EP and Ad to break tolerance to a self-antigen in large animals, we have cloned the CEA homologue (rhCEA) from rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) colon tissue samples. rhCEA is a 705 aa protein and shares 78.9% homology to human CEA protein. Immunogenicity of rhCEA expressing vectors was tested in mice and subsequently in rhesus monkeys. To further increase the immunogenic potency of these vectors, a synthetic codon optimized rhCEA cDNA (rhCEAopt) was constructed. Genetic vaccination of rhesus monkeys was effective in breaking immune tolerance to rhCEA in all immunized animals, maintaining over time the elicited immune response, and most importantly, neither autoimmunity nor other side-effects were observed upon treatment. Our data confirm the efficacy of genetic cancer vaccines in large animals such as nonhuman primates and show that development of modified expression cassettes that result in increased potency of plasmid DNA and adenovirus may have a significant impact on vaccine development against malignancies expressing tumor associated antigens in patients.