Multimodal immunogenic cancer cell death as a consequence of anticancer cytotoxic treatments

Cell Death Differ. 2014 Jan;21(1):39-49. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2013.84. Epub 2013 Jul 5.


Apoptotic cell death generally characterized by a morphologically homogenous entity has been considered to be essentially non-immunogenic. However, apoptotic cancer cell death, also known as type 1 programmed cell death (PCD), was recently found to be immunogenic after treatment with several chemotherapeutic agents and oncolytic viruses through the emission of various danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Extensive studies have revealed that two different types of immunogenic cell death (ICD) inducers, recently classified by their distinct actions in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, can reinitiate immune responses suppressed by the tumor microenvironment. Indeed, recent clinical studies have shown that several immunotherapeutic modalities including therapeutic cancer vaccines and oncolytic viruses, but not conventional chemotherapies, culminate in beneficial outcomes, probably because of their different mechanisms of ICD induction. Furthermore, interests in PCD of cancer cells have shifted from its classical form to novel forms involving autophagic cell death (ACD), programmed necrotic cell death (necroptosis), and pyroptosis, some of which entail immunogenicity after anticancer treatments. In this review, we provide a brief outline of the well-characterized DAMPs such as calreticulin (CRT) exposure, high-mobility group protein B1 (HMGB1), and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) release, which are induced by the morphologically distinct types of cell death. In the latter part, our review focuses on how emerging oncolytic viruses induce different forms of cell death and the combinations of oncolytic virotherapies with further immunomodulation by cyclophosphamide and other immunotherapeutic modalities foster dendritic cell (DC)-mediated induction of antitumor immunity. Accordingly, it is increasingly important to fully understand how and which ICD inducers cause multimodal ICD, which should aid the design of reasonably multifaceted anticancer modalities to maximize ICD-triggered antitumor immunity and eliminate residual or metastasized tumors while sparing autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Calreticulin / metabolism
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects
  • HMGB1 Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Oncolytic Viruses / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Calreticulin
  • HMGB1 Protein