Clinical applications of dendritic cell vaccination in the treatment of cancer

Lee D. Cranmer, Katrina T. Trevor, Evan M. Hersh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Dendritic cell (DC) immunotherapy has shown significant promise in animal studies as a potential treatment for cancer. Its application in the clinic depends on the results of human trials. Here, we review the published clinical trials of cancer immunotherapy using exogenously antigen-exposed DCs. We begin with a short review of general properties and considerations in the design of such vaccines. We then review trials by disease type. Despite great efforts on the part of individual investigative groups, most trials to date have not yielded data from which firm conclusions can be drawn. The reasons for this include nonstandard DC preparation and vaccination protocols, use of different antigen preparations, variable means of immune assessment, and nonrigorous criteria for defining clinical response. While extensive animal studies have been conducted using DCs, optimal parameters in humans remain to be established. Unanswered questions include optimal cell dose, use of mature versus immature DCs for vaccination, optimal antigen preparation, optimal route, and optimal means of assessing immune response. It is critical that these questions be answered, as DC therapy is labor- and resource-intensive. Cooperation is needed on the part of the many investigators in the field to address these issues. If such cooperation is not forthcoming, the critical studies that will be required to make DC therapy a clinically and commercially viable enterprise will not take place, and this therapy, so promising in preclinical studies, will not be able to compete with the many other new approaches to cancer therapy presently in development. Trials published in print through June 2003 are included. We exclude single case reports, except where relevant, and trials with so many variables as to prevent interpretation about DC therapy effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-306
Number of pages32
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Dendritic cell
  • Human clinical trial
  • Immunotherapy
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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