Trial Watch: DNA vaccines for cancer therapy
During the past 2 decades, the possibility that preparations capable of eliciting tumor-specific immune responses would mediate robust therapeutic effects in cancer patients has received renovated interest. In this context, several approaches to vaccinate cancer patients against their own malignancies have been conceived, including the administration of DNA constructs coding for one or more tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). Such DNA-based vaccines conceptually differ from other types of gene therapy in that they are not devised to directly kill cancer cells or sensitize them to the cytotoxic activity of a drug, but rather to elicit a tumor-specific immune response. In spite of an intense wave of preclinical development, the introduction of this immunotherapeutic paradigm into the clinical practice is facing difficulties. Indeed, while most DNA-based anticancer vaccines are well tolerated by cancer patients, they often fail to generate therapeutically relevant clinical responses. In this Trial Watch, we discuss the latest advances on the use of DNA-based vaccines in cancer therapy, discussing the literature that has been produced around this topic during the last 13 months as well as clinical studies that have been launched in the same time frame to assess the actual therapeutic potential of this intervention.