The use of Toll-like receptor 7/8 agonists as vaccine adjuvants

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2013 Jul;12(7):809-19. doi: 10.1586/14760584.2013.811208.


Small molecule Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7/8 agonists have demonstrated potential as vaccine adjuvants, since they directly activate APCs and can enhance both humoral and cellular immune responses, especially Th1 responses. Although the natural ligands for TLR7 and TLR8 are ssRNA, the vast majority of vaccine studies performed thus far have been performed with synthetic small molecule imidazoquinolines, such as imiquimod and resiquimod. Despite the approved clinical use of the topical TLR7 agonist, imiquimod (Aldara(®) Imiquimod 5% cream; 3M, MN, USA), for external genital warts, superficial basal cell carcinoma and actinic keratosis, no vaccines using TLR7, TLR8 or TLR7/8 agonists have progressed beyond early-phase clinical studies thus far. This review will highlight the nonclinical and clinical studies that indicate promise for TLR7/8 ligands as vaccine adjuvants, reasons for inconsistent results thus far, problems with current technology and potential paths forward for TLR7/8 agonists as vaccine adjuvants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / administration & dosage*
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Aminoquinolines / administration & dosage
  • Aminoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Discovery / trends
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / administration & dosage
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • Imiquimod
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7 / agonists*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7 / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 8 / agonists*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 8 / immunology
  • Vaccines / immunology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Aminoquinolines
  • Imidazoles
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7
  • Toll-Like Receptor 8
  • Vaccines
  • Imiquimod
  • resiquimod