The secret ally: immunostimulation by anticancer drugs

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2012 Feb 3;11(3):215-33. doi: 10.1038/nrd3626.


It has recently become clear that the tumour microenvironment, and in particular the immune system, has a crucial role in modulating tumour progression and response to therapy. Indicators of an ongoing immune response, such as the composition of the intratumoural immune infiltrate, as well as polymorphisms in genes encoding immune modulators, have been correlated with therapeutic outcome. Moreover, several anticancer agents--including classical chemotherapeutics and targeted compounds--stimulate tumour-specific immune responses either by inducing the immunogenic death of tumour cells or by engaging immune effector mechanisms. Here, we discuss the molecular and cellular circuitries whereby cytotoxic agents can activate the immune system against cancer, and their therapeutic implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunization / methods*
  • Immunization / trends
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cancer Vaccines