Live, attenuated strains of Listeria and Salmonella as vaccine vectors in cancer treatment

Bioeng Bugs. Jul-Aug 2010;1(4):235-43. doi: 10.4161/bbug.1.4.11243. Epub 2010 Jan 4.


Live, attenuated strains of many bacteria that synthesize and secrete foreign antigens are being developed as vaccines for a number of infectious diseases and cancer. Bacterial-based vaccines provide a number of advantages over other antigen delivery strategies including low cost of production, the absence of animal products, genetic stability and safety. In addition, bacterial vaccines delivering a tumor-associated antigen (TAA) stimulate innate immunity and also activate both arms of the adaptive immune system by which they exert efficacious anti-tumor effects. Listeria monocytogenes and several strains of Salmonella have been most extensively studied for this purpose. A number of attenuated strains have been generated and used to deliver antigens associated with infectious diseases and cancer. Although both bacteria are intracellular, the immune responses invoked by Listeria and Salmonella are different due to their sub-cellular locations. Upon entering antigen-presenting cells by phagocytosis, Listeria is capable of escaping from the phagosomal compartment and thus has direct access to the cell cytosol. Proteins delivered by this vector behave as endogenous antigens, are presented on the cell surface in the context of MHC class I molecules, and generate strong cell-mediated immune responses. In contrast, proteins delivered by Salmonella, which lacks a phagosomal escape mechanism, are treated as exogenous antigens and presented by MHC class II molecules resulting predominantly in Th2 type immune responses. This fundamental disparity between the life cycles of the two vectors accounts for their differential application as antigen delivery vehicles. The present paper includes a review of the most recent advances in the development of these two bacterial vectors for treatment of cancer. Similarities and differences between the two vectors are discussed.

Keywords: Listeria; Salmonella; bacteria; cancer; immunotherapy; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Listeria / immunology*
  • Listeria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Salmonella / immunology*
  • Salmonella / metabolism


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I