Molecular mimicry and cancer vaccine development

Mol Cancer. 2023 Apr 26;22(1):75. doi: 10.1186/s12943-023-01776-0.


Background: The development of cancer immunotherapeutic strategies relies on the identification and validation of optimal target tumor antigens, which should be tumor-specific as well as able to elicit a swift and potent anti-tumor immune response. The vast majority of such strategies are based on tumor associated antigens (TAAs) which are shared wild type cellular self-epitopes highly expressed on tumor cells. Indeed, TAAs can be used to develop off-the-shelf cancer vaccines appropriate to all patients affected by the same malignancy. However, given that they may be also presented by HLAs on the surface of non-malignant cells, they may be possibly affected by immunological tolerance or elicit autoimmune responses.

Main body: In order to overcome such limitations, analogue peptides with improved antigenicity and immunogenicity able to elicit a cross-reactive T cell response are needed. To this aim, non-self-antigens derived from microorganisms (MoAs) may be of great benefit.

Keywords: Cancer Vaccines; Microbiota; Molecular Mimicry; T cell cross-reactivity; Tumor-Associated Antigens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Antigens, Neoplasm