The use of cancer vaccines is considered a promising therapeutic strategy in clinical oncology, which is achieved by stimulating antitumor immunity with tumor antigens delivered in the form of cells, peptides, viruses, and nucleic acids. The ideal cancer vaccine has many advantages, including low toxicity, specificity, and induction of persistent immune memory to overcome tumor heterogeneity and reverse the immunosuppressive microenvironment. Many therapeutic vaccines have entered clinical trials for a variety of cancers, including melanoma, breast cancer, lung cancer, and others. However, many challenges, including single antigen targeting, weak immunogenicity, off-target effects, and impaired immune response, have hindered their broad clinical translation. In this review, we introduce the principle of action, components (including antigens and adjuvants), and classification (according to applicable objects and preparation methods) of cancer vaccines, summarize the delivery methods of cancer vaccines, and review the clinical and theoretical research progress of cancer vaccines. We also present new insights into cancer vaccine technologies, platforms, and applications as well as an understanding of potential next-generation preventive and therapeutic vaccine technologies, providing a broader perspective for future vaccine design.
Keywords: adjuvant; cancer vaccine; immunotherapy; tumor antigen.