Cancer immunotherapy has come a long way. The hope that immunological approaches may help cancer patients has sparked many initiatives in research and development (R&D). For many years, progress was modest and disappointments were frequent. Today, the increasing scientific and medical knowledge has established a solid basis for improvements. Considerable clinical success was first achieved for patients with hematological cancers. More recently, immunotherapy has entered center stage in the development of novel therapies against solid cancers. Together with R&D in angiogenesis, the field of immunology has fundamentally extended the scientific scope, which has evolved from a cancer-cell-centered view to a comprehensive and integrated vision of tumor biology. Current R&D is focused on a large array of possible disease mechanisms, driven by cancer cells, and amplified by tumor stroma, inflammatory and immunological actors, blood and lymph vessels, and the “macroenvironment," i.e. systemic mechanisms of the host, particularly of the haematopoietic system. Contrasting to this large spectrum of pathophysiological events promoting tumor growth, only a small number of biological mechanisms, namely of the immune system, have the potential to counteract tumor growth. They are of prime interest because therapeutic enhancement may result in clinical benefit for patients. This special issue is dedicated to immunotherapeutics against cancer, with particular emphasis on vaccination and combination therapies, providing updates and extended insight in this booming field.
Keywords: T cells; cancer; checkpoint blockade; immunotherapy; research & development of cancer therapy; vaccination.