Strategies for the development of vaccines to treat breast cancer

Recent Results Cancer Res. 1998;152:94-102. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-45769-2_9.


The characterization of tumor-associated antigens recognized by cellular or humoral effectors of the immune system has opened new perspectives for cancer therapy. Several categories of cancer-associated antigens have been described as targets for cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in vitro and in vivo: "cancer-testis" (CT) antigens expressed in different tumors and normal testis, melanocyte differentiation antigens, point mutations of normal genes, antigens that are overexpressed in malignant tissues, and viral antigens. Clinical studies using peptides derived from these antigens have been initiated to induce specific CTL responses in vivo. Immunological and clinical parameters for the assessment of peptide-specific reactions have been defined, i.e., induction of delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), CTL, autoimmune, and tumor regression responses. Preliminary results demonstrate that tumor-associated peptides alone elicit specific DTH and CTL responses leading to tumor regression after intradermal injection. GM-CSF was proved to be effective in enhancing peptide-specific immune reactions by amplification of dermal peptide-presenting dendritic cells. Long-lasting complete tumor regressions have been observed after induction of CTLs by peptide immunization. However, in a few cases where there was disease progression after initial tumor response, loss of either the tumor antigen targeted by CTLs or of the presenting MHC class I molecule was detected as the mechanism of immune escape under immunization in vivo. Based on these observations, cytokines to enhance antigen and MHC class I expression in vivo are being evaluated to prevent immunoselection. Recently, a strategy utilizing spontaneous antibody responses to tumor-associated antigens (SEREX) has led to the identification of a new CT antigen, NY-ESO-1. In a melanoma patient with high titer antibody against NY-ESO-1, strong HLA-A2-restricted CTL reactivity against the same antigen was also found. Clinical studies involving tumor antigens that induce both antibody and CTL responses will show whether these are better candidates for immunotherapy of cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Antigens, Differentiation / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Active*
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Point Mutation


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines