Vaccines for established cancer: overcoming the challenges posed by immune evasion

Nat Rev Cancer. 2016 Apr;16(4):219-33. doi: 10.1038/nrc.2016.16. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Therapeutic vaccines preferentially stimulate T cells against tumour-specific epitopes that are created by DNA mutations or oncogenic viruses. In the setting of premalignant disease, carcinoma in situ or minimal residual disease, therapeutic vaccination can be clinically successful as monotherapy; however, in established cancers, therapeutic vaccines will require co-treatments to overcome immune evasion and to become fully effective. In this Review, we discuss the progress that has been made in overcoming immune evasion controlled by tumour cell-intrinsic factors and the tumour microenvironment. We summarize how therapeutic benefit can be maximized in patients with established cancers by improving vaccine design and by using vaccines to increase the effects of standard chemotherapies, to establish and/or maintain tumour-specific T cells that are re-energized by checkpoint blockade and other therapies, and to sustain the antitumour response of adoptively transferred T cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Humans
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Tumor Escape / immunology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Cancer Vaccines