Breast cancer immunotherapy: current status and future prospects

Immunol Cell Biol. 1996 Oct;74(5):457-64. doi: 10.1038/icb.1996.76.


The development of an immunotherapeutic approach to cancer is the concern for many immunologists, but despite the impressive progress over the past decade, such as the identification of tumour antigens and antigenic peptides as potential targets, there are still many obstacles in eliciting an effective immune response to eradicate cancer. Mucins have attracted interest as potential targets for immunotherapy in the development of vaccines for cancers expressing Mucin1 (MUC1; e.g. breast, pancreas, ovary etc.). All of the identified targets for cancer, including MUC1, are normal proteins; however MUC1 expressed on tumours can be considered as tumour specific due to their overexpression, altered glycosylation and its ubiquitous distribution on the cell surface rather than at the secretory pole in adenocarcinomas. These observations have led to the development of several different approaches to immunize against breast cancer using synthetic carbohydrates or peptides conjugated to carriers and given together with a variety of adjuvants to elicit the appropriate immune response. Mannan, a polymannose carbohydrate isolated from the cell wall of yeast, is an appropriate and effective protein carrier for eliciting a cellular (T1-type) or humoral (T2-type) immune response depending on the mode of conjugation (oxidized or reduced). In addition, mannan holds promise and opens many avenues as a carrier for vaccine development for other antigens. Several clinical trials are in progress to evaluate the immunogenicity of MUC1 and its suitability as to use for immunotherapy/vaccine for breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Active*
  • Mannans / immunology
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mucin-1 / immunology
  • Mucin-1 / therapeutic use
  • Mucins / immunology
  • Mucins / therapeutic use*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Mannans
  • Mucin-1
  • Mucins
  • Vaccines, Synthetic