Dendritic cells (DC) are professional antigen-presenting cells uniquely suited for cancer immunotherapy. They induce primary immune responses, potentiate the effector functions of previously primed T-lymphocytes, and orchestrate communication between innate and adaptive immunity. The remarkable diversity of cytokine activation regimens, DC maturation states, and antigen-loading strategies employed in current DC-based vaccine design reflect an evolving, but incomplete, understanding of optimal DC immunobiology. In the clinical realm, existing DC-based cancer immunotherapy efforts have yielded encouraging but inconsistent results. Despite recent U.S. Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of DC-based sipuleucel-T for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, clinically effective DC immunotherapy as monotherapy for a majority of tumors remains a distant goal. Recent work has identified strategies that may allow for more potent “next-generation” DC vaccines. Additionally, multimodality approaches incorporating DC-based immunotherapy may improve clinical outcomes.
Department of Surgery, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.