Review Article

Ex vivo pulsed dendritic cell vaccination against cancer

Authors: Yang-zhuo Gu1, Xing Zhao1,2, Xiang-rong Song1
1 State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Cancer Center, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, and Collaborative Innovation Center for Biotherapy, Chengdu 610041, China
2 Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Research Center, Guizhou Medical University/Key Laboratory of Adult Stem Cell Transformation Research, Department of Immunology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Guiyang 550004, China

Correspondence to: Xiang-rong Song:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-020-0415-5
Received: 15 December 2019
Accepted: 30 March 2020
Advance online: 4 May 2020


As the most powerful antigen-presenting cell type, dendritic cells (DCs) can induce potent antigen-specific immune responses in vivo, hence becoming optimal cell population for vaccination purposes. DCs can be derived ex vivo in quantity and manipulated extensively to be endowed with adequate immune-stimulating capacity. After pulsing with cancer antigens in various ways, the matured DCs are administrated back into the patient. DCs home to lymphoid organs to present antigens to and activate specific lymphocytes that react to a given cancer. Ex vivo pulsed DC vaccines have been vigorously investigated for decades, registering encouraging results in relevant immunotherapeutic clinical trials, while facing some solid challenges. With more details in DC biology understood, new theory proposed, and novel technology introduced (featuring recently emerged mRNA vaccine technology), it is becoming increasingly likely that ex vivo pulsed DC vaccine will fulfill its potential in cancer immunotherapy.
Keywords: cancer immunotherapy; dendritic cells; cancer antigens; DC vaccination; mRNA-pulsed DC vaccines; T-cell activation; tumor microenvironment

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