Cancer vaccines: challenges and potential solutions

Mol Med Today. 1997 Jul;3(7):286-90. doi: 10.1016/s1357-4310(97)01048-4.


Almost a century has passed since immunotherapy of cancer was first attempted using cancer immunogens (vaccines); however, its clinical impact remains modest. Although initial concerns about a lack of human tumor antigens have decreased, prevailing issues include inefficient procedures for immunization and downregulated expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules in tumor cells. While immunization can be improved, deficient MHC class I expression remains a problem, because it hampers the ability of tumor cells to present antigens for killing by CD8+ T cells. These are the major mediators of tumor destruction, and they have little or no activity against antigen-negative bystander cells. However, there are reasons to be optimistic that therapeutic vaccination against cancer antigens might become a reality at last.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / prevention & control*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I