Purpose of review
Dendritic cells (DCs) are the gatekeepers of our immune system and indispensable in the antitumor immune response. In recent years, their classification has been revised considerably using single-cell sequencing approaches. In this review, we focus on their unique role in cancer and how specific DC subsets can be manipulated to induce an effective and durable antitumor response.
Historically, due to the ease of their isolation in sufficient cell numbers from peripheral blood, the utility of monocyte-derived DCs as therapeutic cancer vaccines was explored in the clinic. However, it became clear that naturally circulating myeloid DCs (myDC), exerting their physiological role, are a functionally more powerful cellular source of antigen presenting cells. With the advent of immunomagnetic bead technology to isolate naturally circulating DC subsets, the therapeutic value of these myDC subsets is currently being explored. Since DCs are also needed in the tumor microenvironment in order to “relicense” the activity of antitumor T cells, also intratumoral administration routes for DC vaccines are explored. In addition, to circumvent the use of expensive cellular vaccines, approaches to attract DCs to the tumor microenvironment are considered of interest in order to repair a defective cancer-immunity cycle.
In recent years, the type of DCs used for vaccination and their administration route evolved considerably. Intratumoral vaccination strategies require combination with additional stimuli to ensure proper functioning of DCs in the tumor microenvironment. Moreover, intratumoral administration limits the applicability to patients with accessible lesions.