Dendritic cell-based cancer gene therapy

Hum Gene Ther. 2009 Oct;20(10):1106-18. doi: 10.1089/hum.2009.145.


In view of their potent antigen-presenting capacity and ability to induce effective immune responses, dendritic cells (DCs) have become an attractive target for therapeutic manipulation of the immune system. The application of tumor-associated antigen (TAA)-expressing DCs for cancer therapy has been the subject of intensive translational investigation. Previous clinical trials demonstrated tumor-specific immune responses without any significant toxicity. However, the clinical success has been modest, because only a limited number of immunized patients demonstrated cancer regression. Considerable progress has been made in the knowledge of DC biology, which opens new avenues for the development of optimized clinical protocols. One such promising approach that might carve its place in the future of DC-based therapy is the use of gene-modified DCs. DCs engineered to express TAAs allow multiepitope presentation by both major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II molecules of full-length TAAs independent of the patient's HLA constitution, as opposed to peptide vaccination strategies. Besides transgene TAA expression, DCs can be genetically modified (1) to express a variety of immune-potentiating molecules (e.g., costimulatory molecules, cytokines, and chemokines) or (2) to downregulate negative modulators of DC functioning, all allowing an enhancement of their immunogenic potential. In the present review, gene delivery systems for DCs are discussed, as well as the various transgenes used for genetic modification of DCs. Moreover, a detailed review of the already published trials using gene-modified DCs is presented and future DC-based strategies targeting multiple layers of the complex cellular immune response are highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*