Importance of the field: Dendritic cells (DC) are powerful antigen-presenting cells that induce and maintain primary cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses directed against tumor antigens. Consequently, there has been much interest in their application as antitumor vaccines.
Areas covered in this review: A large number of DC-based vaccine trials targeting a variety of cancers have been conducted; however, the rate of reported clinically significant responses remains low. Modification of DC to express tumor antigens or immunostimulatory molecules through the transfer of genes or mRNA transfection offers a logical alternative with potential advantages over peptide- or protein antigen-loaded DC. In this article, we review the current results and future prospects for genetically modified DC vaccines for the treatment of cancer.
What the reader will gain: Genetically-modified dendritic cell-based vaccines represent a powerful tool for cancer therapy. Numerous preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated the potential of dendritic cell vaccines alone or in combination with other therapeutic modalities.
Take home message: Genetically modified DC-based anti-cancer vaccination holds promise, perhaps being best employed in the adjuvant setting with minimal residual disease after primary therapy, or in combination with other antitumor or immune-enhancing therapies.