Lung cancer-associated tumor antigens and the present status of immunotherapy against non-small-cell lung cancer

Gen Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2009 Sep;57(9):449-57. doi: 10.1007/s11748-008-0433-6. Epub 2009 Sep 13.


Despite recent advances in surgery, irradiation, and chemotherapy, the prognosis of patients with lung cancer is still poor. Therefore, the development and application of new therapeutic strategies are essential for improving the prognosis of this disease. Significant progress in our understanding of tumor immunology and molecular biology has allowed us to identify the tumor-associated antigens recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Immune responses and tumor-associated antigens against not only malignant melanoma but also lung cancer have been elucidated at the molecular level. In a theoretical sense, tumor eradication is considered possible through antigen-based immunotherapy against such diseases. However, many clinical trials of cancer vaccination with defined tumor antigens have resulted in objective clinical responses in only a small number of patients. Tumor escape mechanisms from host immune surveillance remain a major obstacle for cancer immunotherapy. A better understanding of the immune escape mechanisms employed by tumor cells is necessary before we can develop a more effective immunotherapeutic approach to lung cancer. We review recent studies regarding the identification of tumor antigens in lung cancer, tumor immune escape mechanisms, and clinical vaccine trials in lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Escape


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines