Poly(I:C) as cancer vaccine adjuvant: knocking on the door of medical breakthroughs

Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Feb;146:120-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2014.09.010. Epub 2014 Oct 2.


Although cancer vaccination has yielded promising results in patients, the objective response rates are low. The right choice of adjuvant might improve the efficacy. Here, we review the biological rationale, as well as the preclinical and clinical results of polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid and its derivative poly-ICLC as cancer vaccine adjuvants. These synthetic immunological danger signals enhanced vaccine-induced anti-tumor immune responses and contributed to tumor elimination in animal tumor models and patients. Supported by these results, poly-ICLC-containing cancer vaccines are currently extensively studied in the ongoing trials, making it highly plausible that poly-ICLC will be part of the future approved cancer immunotherapies.

Keywords: Adjuvant; Anti-tumor immunity; Cancer vaccine; Poly(I:C); Poly-ICLC; TLR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic* / pharmacology
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic* / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines* / pharmacology
  • Cancer Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium / pharmacology
  • Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Poly I-C* / pharmacology
  • Poly I-C* / therapeutic use
  • Polylysine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Polylysine / pharmacology
  • Polylysine / therapeutic use


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Polylysine
  • poly ICLC
  • Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium
  • Poly I-C