Lung cancer vaccines: current status and future prospects

Charmaine A. Ramlogan-Steel, Jason C. Steel, John C. Morris


Designing a cancer treatment that very specifically targets and kills tumor cells with little to no side effects is the “holy grail” of oncology. Cancer vaccines have this potential. Vaccines utilize the immune system to specifically target and eliminate tumor cells. Historically, vaccination approaches against lung cancer have been disappointing. However, over the past decade, a greater understanding of the immune system and of the antigens expressed by tumors, coupled with advances in immunoadjuvants and improved delivery systems, has led to advances in the use of immunotherapy including vaccines to target lung cancer. Proof of principle phase I/II clinical trials targeting the MAGE-A3 and MUC1 tumor antigens, as well as cell-based vaccines such as belagenpumatucel-L have suggested improved survival, leading to larger scale phase III clinical trials. This review will discuss cancer vaccines in relation to lung cancer and present clinical data supporting their use.