Cancer mRNA vaccines: clinical advances and future opportunities

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2024 Jul;21(7):489-500. doi: 10.1038/s41571-024-00902-1. Epub 2024 May 17.


mRNA vaccines have been revolutionary in terms of their rapid development and prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infections during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this technology has considerable potential for application to the treatment of cancer. Compared with traditional cancer vaccines based on proteins or peptides, mRNA vaccines reconcile the needs for both personalization and commercialization in a manner that is unique to each patient but not beholden to their HLA haplotype. A further advantage of mRNA vaccines is the availability of engineering strategies to improve their stability while retaining immunogenicity, enabling the induction of complementary innate and adaptive immune responses. Thus far, no mRNA-based cancer vaccines have received regulatory approval, although several phase I-II trials have yielded promising results, including in historically poorly immunogenic tumours. Furthermore, many early phase trials testing a wide range of vaccine designs are currently ongoing. In this Review, we describe the advantages of cancer mRNA vaccines and advances in clinical trials using both cell-based and nanoparticle-based delivery methods, with discussions of future combinations and iterations that might optimize the activity of these agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / immunology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Cancer Vaccines* / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / immunology
  • RNA, Messenger / therapeutic use
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / therapeutic use
  • mRNA Vaccines*


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • mRNA Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • RNA, Messenger