Combinatorial treatments including vaccines, chemotherapy and monoclonal antibodies for cancer therapy

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2009 Mar;58(3):317-24. doi: 10.1007/s00262-008-0576-4. Epub 2008 Aug 15.


Accumulating evidence suggests that despite the potency of cytotoxic anticancer agents, and the great specificity that can be achieved with immunotherapy, neither of these two types of treatment by itself has been sufficient to eradicate the disease. Still, the combination of these two different modalities holds enormous potential for eliciting therapeutic results. Indeed, certain chemotherapeutic agents have shown immunomodulatory activities, and several combined approaches have already been attempted. For instance, chemotherapy has been proven to enhance the efficacy of tumor cell vaccines, and to favor the activity of adoptively transferred tumor-specific T cells. A number of mechanisms have been proposed for the chemotherapy-triggered enhancement of immunotherapy response. Thus, chemotherapy may favor tumor cell death, and by that enhance tumor-antigen cross-presentation in vivo. Drug-induced myelosuppression may induce the production of cytokines favoring homeostatic proliferation, and/or ablate immunosuppression mechanisms. Furthermore, the recently reported synergy between monoclonal antibodies and chemotherapy or peptide vaccination is based upon the induction of endogenous humoral and cellular immune responses. This would suggest that monoclonal antibodies may not only provide passive immunotherapy but can also promote tumor-specific active immunity. This article will review several strategies in which immunotherapy can be exploited in preclinical and clinical studies in combination with other agents and therapeutic modalities that are quite unique when compared with "conventional" combination therapies (ie, treatments with chemotherapeutic drugs or chemotherapy and radiotherapy based protocols). The results from these studies may have significant implications for the development of new protocols based on combinatorial treatments including vaccines, chemotherapy and monoclonal antibodies, suggesting an exciting potential for therapeutic synergy with general applicability to various cancer types. Given the complicity of immune-based therapies and cancer pharmacology, it will be necessary to bring together cancer immunologists and clinicians, so as to provide a robust stimulus for realizing the successful management of cancer in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cancer Vaccines