Development of TLR9 agonists for cancer therapy

J Clin Invest. 2007 May;117(5):1184-94. doi: 10.1172/JCI31414.


In vertebrates, the TLRs are a family of specialized immune receptors that induce protective immune responses when they detect highly conserved pathogen-expressed molecules. Synthetic agonists for several TLRs, including TLR3, TLR4, TLR7, TLR8, and TLR9, have been or are being developed for the treatment of cancer. TLR9 detects the unmethylated CpG dinucleotides prevalent in bacterial and viral DNA but not in vertebrate genomes. As discussed in this Review, short synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides containing these immune stimulatory CpG motifs activate TLR9 in vitro and in vivo, inducing innate and adaptive immunity, and are currently being tested in multiple phase II and phase III human clinical trials as adjuvants to cancer vaccines and in combination with conventional chemotherapy and other therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Design*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / agonists*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9