, Volume 51, Issue 7, pp 351-357
Date: 14 Jun 2002

Immunotherapeutic potential of whole tumour cells

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Despite the identification of tumour antigens and their subsequent generation in subunit form for use as cancer vaccines, whole tumour cells remain a potent vehicle for generating anti-tumour immunity. This is because tumour cells express an array of target antigens for the immune system to react against, avoiding problems associated with major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted epitope identification for individual patients. Furthermore, whole cells are relatively simple to propagate and are potentially efficient at contributing to the process of T cell priming. However, whole cells can also possess properties that allow for immune evasion, and so the question remains of how to enhance the immune response against tumour cells so that they are rejected. Scenarios where whole tumour cells may be utilised in immunotherapy include autologous tumour cell vaccines generated from resected primary tumour, allogeneic (MHC-disparate) cross-reactive tumour cell line vaccines, and immunotherapy of tumours in situ. Since tumour cells are considered poorly immunogenic, mainly because they express self-antigens in a non-stimulatory context, the environment of the tumour cells may have to be modified to become stimulatory by using immunological adjuvants. Recent studies have re-evaluated the relative roles of direct and cross-priming in generating anti-tumour immunity and have highlighted the need to circumvent immune evasion.

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