The application of exosomes as a nanoscale cancer vaccine

Int J Nanomedicine. 2010 Nov 10;5:889-900. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S13402.


Cancer is a leading cause of death globally, and it is predicted and projected to continue rising as life expectancy increases. Although patient survival rates for some forms of cancers are high due to clinical advances in treatment protocols, the search for effective cancer vaccines remains the ultimate Rosetta Stone in oncology. Cervarix(®), Gardasil(®), and hepatitis B vaccines are currently employed in preventing certain forms of viral cancers. However, they are, strictly speaking, not 'true' cancer vaccines as they are prophylactic rather than therapeutic, are only effective against the oncogenic viruses, and do not kill the actual cancer cells. On April 2010, a new prostate cancer vaccine Provenge(®) (sipuleucel-T) was approved by the US FDA, and it is the first approved therapeutic vaccine that utilizes antigen-presenting cell technology involving dendritic cells in cancer immunotherapy. Recent evidence suggests that the use of nanoscale particles like exosomes in immunotherapy could form a viable basis for the development of novel cancer vaccines, via antigen-presenting cell technology, to prime the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. Coupled with nanotechnology, engineered exosomes are emerging as new and novel avenues for cancer vaccine development. Here, we review the current knowledge pertaining to exosome technology in immunotherapy and also seek to address the challenges and future directions associated with it, in hopes of bringing this exciting application a step closer toward an effective clinical reality.

Keywords: cancer vaccine; exosomes; immunotherapy; nanomedicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Exosomes* / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Male
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Nanotechnology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines