Cancer Immunoprevention: Current Status and Future Directions

Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2021 Feb 27;69(1):3. doi: 10.1007/s00005-021-00604-x.


Cancer is one of the most serious diseases affecting health and the second leading cause of death worldwide. Despite the development of various therapeutic modalities to deal with cancer, limited improvement in overall survival of patients has been yielded. Since there is no certain cure for cancer, detection of premalignant lesions, and prevention of their progression are vital to the decline of high morbidity and mortality of cancer. Among approaches to cancer prevention, immunoprevention has gained further attention in recent years. Deep understanding of the tumor/immune system interplay and successful prevention of virally-induced malignancies by vaccines have paved the way toward broadening cancer immunoprevention application. The identification of tumor antigens in premalignant lesions was the turning point in cancer immunoprevention that led to designing preventive vaccines for various malignancies including multiple myeloma, colorectal, and breast cancer. In addition to vaccines, immune checkpoint inhibitors are also being tested for the prevention of oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and imiquimod which is an established drug for the prevention of skin SCC, is a non-specific immunomodulator. Herein, to provide a bench-to-bedside understanding of cancer immunoprevention, we will review the role of the immune system in suppression and promotion of tumors, immunoprevention of virally-induced cancers, identification of tumor antigens in premalignant lesions, and clinical advances of cancer immunoprevention.

Keywords: Actinic keratosis; Biomarker; Colon polyp; Ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast; Immune checkpoint blockade; Immunosurveillance; Oral proliferative verrucous leukoplakia; Precancerous lesion; Precursor; Prevention; Preventive vaccine; Prophylactic vaccine; Smoldering myeloma; Tumor antigen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Precancerous Conditions / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Immunologic Factors