Trial watch: Peptide vaccines in cancer therapy
Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
Prophylactic vaccination constitutes one of the most prominent medical achievements of history. This concept was first demonstrated by the pioneer work of Edward Jenner, dating back to the late 1790s, after which an array of preparations that confer life-long protective immunity against several infectious agents has been developed. The ensuing implementation of nation-wide vaccination programs has de facto abated the incidence of dreadful diseases including rabies, typhoid, cholera and many others. Among all, the most impressive result of vaccination campaigns is surely represented by the eradication of natural smallpox infection, which was definitively certified by the WHO in 1980. The idea of employing vaccines as anticancer interventions was first theorized in the 1890s by Paul Ehrlich and William Coley. However, it soon became clear that while vaccination could be efficiently employed as a preventive measure against infectious agents, anticancer vaccines would have to (1) operate as therapeutic, rather than preventive, interventions (at least in the vast majority of settings), and (2) circumvent the fact that tumor cells often fail to elicit immune responses. During the past 30 y, along with the recognition that the immune system is not irresponsive to tumors (as it was initially thought) and that malignant cells express tumor-associated antigens whereby they can be discriminated from normal cells, considerable efforts have been dedicated to the development of anticancer vaccines. Some of these approaches, encompassing cell-based, DNA-based and purified component-based preparations, have already been shown to exert conspicuous anticancer effects in cohorts of patients affected by both hematological and solid malignancies. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating purified peptides or full-length proteins as therapeutic interventions against cancer.