Vaccine adjuvants as potential cancer immunotherapeutics

Int Immunol. 2016 Jul;28(7):329-38. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxw015. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


Accumulated evidence obtained from various clinical trials and animal studies suggested that cancer vaccines need better adjuvants than those that are currently licensed, which include the most commonly used alum and incomplete Freund's adjuvant, because of either a lack of potent anti-tumor immunity or the induction of undesired immunity. Several clinical trials using immunostimulatory adjuvants, particularly agonistic as well as non-agonistic ligands for TLRs, C-type lectin receptors, retinoic acid-inducible gene I-like receptors and stimulator of interferon genes, have revealed their therapeutic potential not only as vaccine adjuvants but also as anti-tumor agents. Recently, combinations of such immunostimulatory or immunomodulatory adjuvants have shown superior efficacy over their singular use, suggesting that seeking optimal combinations of the currently available or well-characterized adjuvants may provide a better chance for the development of novel adjuvants for cancer immunotherapy.

Keywords: CpG ODN; STING; TLR; combination; β-glucan.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Alum Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Lectins, C-Type / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / therapeutic use*
  • Vaccination


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Alum Compounds
  • CPG-oligonucleotide
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • aluminum sulfate