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Mol Ther. 2011 May;19(5):841-53. doi: 10.1038/mt.2011.57. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

Engineering dendritic cells to enhance cancer immunotherapy.

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  • 1Centre for Gene Therapeutics, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Cancer immunotherapy aims to establish immune-mediated control of tumor growth by priming T-cell responses to target tumor-associated antigens. Three signals are required for T-cell activation: (i) presentation of cognate antigen in self MHC molecules; (ii) costimulation by membrane-bound receptor-ligand pairs; and (iii) soluble factors to direct polarization of the ensuing immune response. The ability of dendritic cells (DCs) to provide all three signals required for T-cell activation makes them an ideal cancer vaccine platform. Several strategies have been developed to enhance and control antigen presentation, costimulation, and cytokine production. In this review, we discuss progress toward developing DC-based cancer vaccines by genetic modification using RNA, DNA, and recombinant viruses. Furthermore, the ability of DC-based vaccines to activate natural killer (NK) and B-cells, and the impact of gene modification strategies on these populations is described. Clinical trials using gene-modified DCs have shown modest results, therefore, further considerations for DC manipulation to enhance their clinical efficacy are also discussed.

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