Pharmaceutical Research

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 200–214 | Cite as

Cancer Immunotherapy and Nanomedicine

  • Wei-Yun Sheng
  • Leaf HuangEmail author
Expert Review


The immune system has the ability to recognize and kill pre-cancer and cancer cells. However, with the immune system’s surveillance, the survival tumor cells learn how to escape the immune system after immunoselection. Cancer immunotherapy develops strategies to overcome these problems. Nanomedicine applications in cancer immunotherapy include the nanodiagnostics and nanobiopharmaceuticals. In cancer nanodiagnostics, it looks for specific “molecular signatures” in cancer cells or their microenvironment by using genomics and proteomics. Nanobiopharmaceuticals is the field that studies nanotechnology-based therapeutic agents and drug carriers. DNA, RNA, peptides, proteins and small molecules can all be used as cancer therapies when formulated in nanocarriers. Currently, cancer vaccines are applied in treatments with existing cancer or to prevent the development of cancer in certain high risk individuals. Most of the non-specific immune activation agents include adjuvants which enhance immunogenicity and accelerate and prolong the response of cancer vaccines. The carriers of vaccines, such as viruses and nanoparticles, have also been in clinical studies for many years. This review will discuss the relationships between the tumor and the immune system, and also will include topics covering the strategies used in eliminating tumors by using nanomedicine.


adjuvant cancer immunotherapy cancer vaccine nano tumor immunoediting 



antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity


antigen-presenting cell


bispecific antibody


cytokine-induced killer cells


Chlorella toxin


cytotoxicity T-lymphocytes


cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Antigen 4


dendritic cells


draining lymph node


N-[1-(2,3-dioleoyloxy)propyl]-N,N,N-trimethylammonium methyl-sulfate


enhanced permeability and retention effects


granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor


human leukocyte antigen


intercellular adhesion molecule-1


immature DC


incomplete Freud’s adjuvant






lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1




labile enterotoxin


mature dendritic cells


myeloid-derived suppressor cell


major histocompatibility complex


natural killer cell






programmed death-1


ethylene glycol


poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)


reactive oxygen species


cytolytic T-cell


T-cell receptor


transforming growth factor β


helper T-cell


toll-like receptor


tumor necrosis factor α


TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand


regulatory T-lymphocyte


Tetanus toxoid


vascular endothelial growth factor



The original work in this lab has been supported by NIH grant CA129421, and we would like to thank Ethan Ekkens, who provided additional advice for this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics, Eshelman School of PharmacyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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