Purpose of review: Cancer immunology became scientifically credible only some 20 years ago with the demonstration of the existence of human tumor antigens. In this short time span, outcomes of cancer vaccine trials have raised hopes and also surfaced disappointments. This review focuses on the prospects of peptide-based vaccines in cancer immunotherapy.
Recent findings: Accurate descriptions of the natural immune responses to cancer allow for a more precise targeting of such tumors by boosting preexisting antitumor immune responses in patients. The development of synthetic long-peptide vaccines avoids many of the pitfalls of previous vaccination trials through the presence of multiple epitopes that may elicit memory antitumor immune responses. Furthermore, the combination of standard therapy with newly developed immunomodulating agents, such as antibodies blocking cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 or programmed death receptor-1, and more efficient immune adjuvants has shown promising results.
Summary: Immunotherapy is becoming an effective means of targeting human cancers, and the application of such approaches in combination with current standard schemes of treatment can lead to a significant benefit in survival and quality of life for cancer patients.