Xenogeneic therapeutic cancer vaccines as breakers of immune tolerance for clinical application: to use or not to use?

Vaccine. 2014 Jul 7;32(32):4015-24. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 May 14.


Accumulation of firm evidence that clinically apparent cancer develops only when malignant cells manage to escape immunosurveillance led to the introduction of tumor immunotherapy strategies aiming to reprogramm the cancer-dysbalanced antitumor immunity and restore its capacity to control tumor growth. There are several immunotherapeutical strategies, among which specific active immunotherapy or therapeutic cancer vaccination is one of the most promising. It targets dendritic cells (DCs) which have a unique ability of inducing naive and central memory T cell-mediated immune response in the most efficient manner. DCs can be therapeutically targeted either in vivo/in situ or by ex vivo manipulations followed by their re-injection back into the same patient. The majority of current DC targeting strategies are based on autologous or allogeneic tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) which possess various degrees of inherent tolerogenic potential. Therefore still limited efficacy of various tumor immunotherapy approaches may be attributed, among various other mechanisms, to the insufficient immunogenicity of self-protein-derived TAAs. Based on such an idea, the use of homologous xenogeneic antigens, derived from different species was suggested to overcome the natural immune tolerance to self TAAs. Xenoantigens are supposed to differ sufficiently from self antigens to a degree that renders them immunogenic, but at the same time preserves an optimal homology range with self proteins still allowing xenoantigens to induce cross-reactive T cells. Here we discuss the concept of xenogeneic vaccination, describe the cons and pros of autologous/allogeneic versus xenogeneic therapeutic cancer vaccines, present the results of various pre-clinical and several clinical studies and highlight the future perspectives of integrating xenovaccination into rapidly developing tumor immunotherapy regimens.

Keywords: Cancer vaccines; Cross-reactivity; Tumor immunotherapy; Tumor-associated antigens; Xenogeneic vaccination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Heterophile / administration & dosage*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Immunotherapy, Active / methods*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antigens, Heterophile
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines