Dendritic cell tumor killing activity and its potential applications in cancer immunotherapy

Neale Hanke, Darya Alizadeh, Emmanuel Katsanis, Nicolas Larmonier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Universally viewed as the sentinels and messengers of the immune system and traditionally referred to as professional antigen-presenting cells, dendritic cells (DCs) play a fundamental role in antitumor immunity. DCs are uniquely equipped with the ability to acquire, process, and present to T lymphocytes tumor-derived antigens. They can drive the differentiation of naïve T cells into activated tumor-specific effector lymphocytes. DCs also dictate the type and regulate the strength and duration of T-cell responses. In addition, they contribute to natural killer and natural killer T-cell antitumoral function and to B-cell-mediated immunity. Besides this cardinal role as orchestrators of innate and adaptive immune responses, many studies have provided evidence that DCs can also function as direct cytotoxic effectors against tumors. This less conventional aspect of DC function has, however, raised controversy as it relates to the origin of these cells and the induction, regulation, and mechanisms underlying their tumoricidal activity. The possible impact of the cytotoxic function of DCs on their capability to present antigens also has been the focus of intensive research. This review examines these questions and discusses the biological significance of this nontraditional property and possible strategies to exploit the killing potential of DCs in cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Reviews in Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Cytotoxic dendritic cells
  • Dendritic cell-based cancer vaccines
  • Tumor immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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