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Cancers (Basel)


As the initiators of adaptive immune responses, DCs play a central role in regulating the balance between CD8 T cell immunity versus tolerance to tumor antigens. Exploiting their function to potentiate host anti-tumor immunity, DC-based vaccines have been one of most promising and widely used cancer immunotherapies. However, DC-based cancer vaccines have not achieved the promised success in clinical trials, with one of the major obstacles being tumor-mediated immunosuppression. A recent discovery on the critical role of type 1 conventional DCs (cDC1s) play in cross-priming tumor-specific CD8 T cells and determining the anti-tumor efficacy of cancer immunotherapies, however, has highlighted the need to further develop and refine DC-based vaccines either as monotherapies or in combination with other therapies. DC-derived exosomes (DCexos) have been heralded as a promising alternative to DC-based vaccines, as DCexos are more resistance to tumor-mediated suppression and DCexo vaccines have exhibited better anti-tumor efficacy in pre-clinical animal models. However, DCexo vaccines have only achieved limited clinical efficacy and failed to induce tumor-specific T cell responses in clinical trials. The lack of clinical efficacy might be partly due to the fact that all current clinical trials used peptide-loaded DCexos from monocyte-derived DCs. In this review, we will focus on the perspective of expanding current DCexo research to move DCexo cancer vaccines forward clinically to realize their potential in cancer immunotherapy.

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