CpG oligodeoxynucleotides as TLR9 agonists: therapeutic applications in cancer

BioDrugs. 2009;23(6):361-75. doi: 10.2165/11316930-000000000-00000.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are part of the innate immune system, and they belong to the pattern recognition receptors (PRR) family. The PRR family is designed to recognize and bind conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns, which are not generated by the host and are restricted and essential to micro-organisms. TLR9, which recognizes unmethylated CpG (cytosine guanosine dinucleotide), is a very promising target for therapeutic activation. Stimulation of TLR9 activates human plasmacytoid dendritic cells and B cells, and results in potent T helper-1 (T(h)1)-type immune responses and antitumor responses in mouse tumor models and in patients. Several pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Idera, and Dynavax, are developing CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) for the treatment of cancer, along with other conditions, such as infections and allergy. CpG ODNs have shown promising results as vaccine adjuvants and in combination with cancer immunotherapy. Several TLR9 agonists are being developed and have entered clinical trials to evaluate their safety and efficacy for the treatment of several hematopoietic and solid tumors. In this review, we discuss the use of CpG ODNs in several phase I and II clinical trials for the treatment of NHL, renal cell carcinoma, melanoma, and non-small cell lung cancer, either alone or in combination with other agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / trends
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / pharmacology
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / therapeutic use*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / agonists*


  • CPG-oligonucleotide
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9