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Despite largely disappointing clinical trials of dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccines, recent studies have shown that DC-mediated cross-priming plays a critical role in generating anti-tumor CD8 T cell immunity and regulating anti-tumor efficacy of immunotherapies. These new findings thus support further development and refinement of DC-based vaccines as mono-immunotherapy or combinational immunotherapies. One exciting development is recent clinical studies with naturally circulating DCs including plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). pDC vaccines were particularly intriguing, as pDCs are generally presumed to play a negative role in regulating T cell responses in tumors. Similarly, DC-derived exosomes (DCexos) have been heralded as cell-free therapeutic cancer vaccines that are potentially superior to DC vaccines in overcoming tumor-mediated immunosuppression, although DCexo clinical trials have not led to expected clinical outcomes. Using a pDC-targeted vaccine model, we have recently reported that pDCs required type 1 conventional DCs (cDC1s) for optimal cross-priming by transferring antigens through pDC-derived exosomes (pDCexos), which also cross-prime CD8 T cells in a bystander cDC-dependent manner. Thus, pDCexos could combine the advantages of both cDC1s and pDCs as cancer vaccines to achieve better anti-tumor efficacy. In this review, we will focus on the pDC-based cancer vaccines and discuss potential clinical application of pDCexos in cancer immunotherapy.

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