Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 65, Issue 7, pp 787–796 | Cite as

Improving cancer immunotherapy with DNA methyltransferase inhibitors

  • Mohammad H. Saleh
  • Lei Wang
  • Michael S. Goldberg
Focussed Research Review


Immunotherapy confers durable clinical benefit to melanoma, lung, and kidney cancer patients. Challengingly, most other solid tumors, including ovarian carcinoma, are not particularly responsive to immunotherapy, so combination with a complementary therapy may be beneficial. Recent findings suggest that epigenetic modifying drugs can prime antitumor immunity by increasing expression of tumor-associated antigens, chemokines, and activating ligands by cancer cells as well as cytokines by immune cells. This review, drawing from both preclinical and clinical data, describes some of the mechanisms of action that enable DNA methyltransferase inhibitors to facilitate the establishment of antitumor immunity.


CITIM 2015 Epigenetic modifier DNA methyltransferase inhibitor Decitabine Immunotherapy Ovarian cancer 



Acute myeloid leukemia




Chronic lymphocytic leukemia


Cancer testis antigen


Cytotoxic T lymphocyte




DNA methyltransferases


DNA methyltransferase inhibitor


Histone deacetylase


Melanoma-associated antigen


Myelodysplastic syndrome


Myeloid-derived suppressor cell


Major histocompatibility complex class I

NK cells

Natural killer cells


Natural-killer group 2, member D


Non-small cell lung cancer


Killer immunoglobulin-like receptor


Regulatory T cells



We thank the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (Liz Tilberis Scholar award) and the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancer for supporting this work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad H. Saleh
    • 1
  • Lei Wang
    • 1
  • Michael S. Goldberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cancer Immunology and VirologyDana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA

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