Advances in the development of personalized neoantigen-based therapeutic cancer vaccines

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2021 Apr;18(4):215-229. doi: 10.1038/s41571-020-00460-2. Epub 2021 Jan 20.


Within the past decade, the field of immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of many cancers with the development and regulatory approval of various immune-checkpoint inhibitors and chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapies in diverse indications. Another promising approach to cancer immunotherapy involves the use of personalized vaccines designed to trigger de novo T cell responses against neoantigens, which are highly specific to tumours of individual patients, in order to amplify and broaden the endogenous repertoire of tumour-specific T cells. Results from initial clinical studies of personalized neoantigen-based vaccines, enabled by the availability of rapid and cost-effective sequencing and bioinformatics technologies, have demonstrated robust tumour-specific immunogenicity and preliminary evidence of antitumour activity in patients with melanoma and other cancers. Herein, we provide an overview of the complex process that is necessary to generate a personalized neoantigen vaccine, review the types of vaccine-induced T cells that are found within tumours and outline strategies to enhance the T cell responses. In addition, we discuss the current status of clinical studies testing personalized neoantigen vaccines in patients with cancer and considerations for future clinical investigation of this novel, individualized approach to immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Combined Modality Therapy / trends
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Immunotherapy / trends
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Precision Medicine / methods
  • Precision Medicine / trends*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / transplantation


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Immunologic Factors