Dendritic Cell Therapy


The role of immunology is now critical for the understanding of cancer pathophysiology and treatment. Dendritic cells (DCs) are immune cells that serve the unique purpose of bridging innate immunity with the adaptive immune response. Owing to their specialised role, they have been leveraged to deliver immunotherapy for cancer.

Key Concepts

  • Dendritic cells are antigen presenting cells that present antigens to na├»ve T cells serving as a link between the innate and adaptive immune response.
  • Dendritic cells can be generated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells, loaded with an antigen and given back to the patient as a vaccine.
  • Dendritic cells can various antigens including non-infectious antigens related to disease such as cancer.
  • Several dendritic cell vaccines have been tested for efficacy in cancer and one is currently FDA approved for prostate cancer.
  • Dendritic cell vaccines have been tested in patients with cancer with promising results.

Keywords: immunotherapy; dendritic cells; cancer; tumour; vaccine; glioblastoma

Figure 1. Human DC lineages. The myeloid pathway and the lymphoid pathway are the two known main pathways of DC differentiation in human. The myeloid pathway leads in two different subsets that include Langerhans cells in epithelia and interstitial DCs in all other tissues. The lymphoid pathway leads to plasmocytoid DCs. These cells secrete high amounts of type I interferons and can stimulate a cytotoxic immunity strongly. In in vitro conditions, immature DCs can be generated from monocytes through culturing with granulocyte/macrophage colony‐stimulating factor (GM‐CSF) and interleukin‐4 (IL‐4).
Figure 2. The approach for ex vivo expansion and maturation of autologous derived dendritic cells. Patients undergo a leukapheresis to collect peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). These cells are isolated using cytokines and then undergo a maturation process using processes such as electroporation. The cells can then be delivered to patients via an intradermal injection.


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Further Reading

Abraham RS and Mitchell DA (2016) Gene‐modified dendritic cell vaccines for cancer. Cytotherapy 18 (11): 1446–1455.

Bregy A, Wong TM, Shah AH, Goldberg JM and Komotar RJ (2013) Active immunotherapy using dendritic cells in the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme. Cancer Treatment Reviews 39 (8): 891–907.

Constantino J, Gomes C, Falcao A, Cruz MT and Neves BM (2016) Antitumor dendritic cell‐based vaccines: lessons from 20 years of clinical trials and future perspectives. Translational Research 168: 74–95.

Constantino J, Gomes C, Falcão A, Neves BM and Cruz MT (2017) Dendritic cell‐based immunotherapy: a basic review and recent advances. Immunologic Research 65 (4): 798–810.

Copier J and Dalgleish A (2001) Tumour immunology. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. a0001429.pub2

Schaller TH and Sampson JH (2017) Advances and challenges: dendritic cell vaccination strategies for glioblastoma. Expert Review of Vaccines 16 (1): 27–36.

Segura E (2016) Review of mouse and human dendritic cell subsets. Methods in Molecular Biology 1423: 3–15.

Seyfizadeh N, Muthuswamy R, Mitchell DA, Nierkens S and Seyfizadeh N (2016) Migration of dendritic cells to the lymph nodes and its enhancement to drive anti‐tumor responses. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 107: 100–110.

Van Brussel I, Berneman ZN and Cools N (2012) Optimizing dendritic cell‐based immunotherapy: tackling the complexity of different arms of the immune system. Mediators of Inflammation 2012: 690643.

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Dastmalchi, Farhad, Karachi, Aida, Mitchell, Duane, and Rahman, Maryam(Jun 2018) Dendritic Cell Therapy. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024243]