Ex vivo generation and antigen loading of dendritic cells (DCs) from cancer patients helps to bypass the dysfunction of endogenous DCs. It also allows to control the process of DC maturation and to imprint in maturing DCs several functions essential for induction of effective forms of cancer immunity. Recent reports from several groups including ours demonstrate that distinct conditions of DC generation and maturation can prime DCs for preferential interaction with different (effector versus regulatory) subsets of immune cells. Moreover, differentially-generated DCs have been shown to imprint different effector mechanisms in CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells (delivery of "signal three") and to induce their different homing properties (delivery of "signal four"). These developments allow for selective induction of tumor-specific T cells with desirable effector functions and tumor-relevant homing properties and to direct the desirable types of immune cells to tumors.
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