Peptide vaccines in breast cancer: The immunological basis for clinical response

Biotechnol Adv. 2015 Dec;33(8):1868-77. doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2015.10.013. Epub 2015 Oct 30.


This review discusses peptide-based vaccines in breast cancer, immune responses and clinical outcomes, which include studies on animal models and phase I, phase I/II, phase II and phase III clinical trials. Peptide-based vaccines are powerful neoadjuvant immunotherapies that can directly target proteins expressed in tumor cells, mainly tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). The most common breast cancer TAA epitopes are derived from MUC1, HER2/neu and CEA proteins. Peptides derived from TAAs could be successfully used to elicit CD8 and CD4 T cell-specific responses. Thus, choosing peptides that adapt to natural variations of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes is critical. The most attractive advantage is that the target response is more specific and less toxic than for other therapies and vaccines. Prominent studies on NeuVax - E75 (epitope for HER2/neu and GM-CSF) in breast cancer and DPX-0907 (HLA-A2-TAAs) expressed in breast cancer, ovarian and prostate cancer have shown the efficacy of peptide-based vaccines as neoadjuvant immunotherapy against cancer. Future peptide vaccine strategies, although a challenge to be applied in a broad range of breast cancers, point to the development of degenerate multi-epitope immunogens against multiple targets.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Breast cancer immunotherapy; Breast cancer therapy; Peptide-based vaccines; Tumor-associated antigens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Female
  • HLA-A2 Antigen / immunology
  • Humans
  • Peptides / immunology*
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology
  • Vaccines, Subunit / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Subunit / therapeutic use


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Epitopes
  • HLA-A2 Antigen
  • Peptides
  • Vaccines, Subunit
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2