What are some challenges in developing vaccines for immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy vaccines introduce specific antigens in the body to prime the immune system against foreign cells like cancer. Vaccine-based immunoprevention is actively used to eliminate the oncogenic potential of viruses like the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV; cervical cancer) and Hepatitis C (liver cancer). However, developing vaccines for non-viral cancers caused by genetic alterations of normal tissues remains a significant barrier. This can be addressed if vaccines are designed to target cellular antigens that exhibit driver mutation markers for cell survival. The current challenges in the field of cancer immunotherapy are identifying patterns of tumor antigen presentation during critical timeframes when cancer cells are especially vulnerable in the premalignant stage.1 Vaccines can also play a vital role during the quiescent stages of cancer remission to prevent the reoccurrence of cancer. To date, several secondary vaccines have been developed and tested in clinical trials for this purpose,2 but more high-throughput based work is needed for different vaccine constructs to account for multiple antigens and biomarkers. Please visit our resource center for an expanded view on immunotherapy.

1. C.L. Ventola, "Cancer Immunotherapy, Part 3 Challenges and Future Trends," P.T 42(8): 514-521, 2017.
2. P. Klener et al, “Immunotherapy Approaches in Cancer treatment,” Curr Pharm Biotech 16(9): 771-781, 2015.