Over the last two decades, dendritic cell (DC) vaccination has been studied extensively as active immunotherapy in cancer treatment and has been proven safe in all clinical trials both with respect to short and long-term side effects. For antigen-loading of dendritic cells (DCs) one method is to introduce mRNA coding for the desired antigens. To target the whole antigenic repertoire of a tumor, even the total tumor mRNA of a macrodissected biopsy sample can be used. To date, reports have been published on a total of 781 patients suffering from different tumor entities and HIV-infection, who have been treated with DCs loaded with mRNA. The majority of those were melanoma patients, followed by HIV-infected patients, but leukemias, brain tumors, prostate cancer, renal cell carcinomas, pancreatic cancers and several others have also been treated. Next to antigen-loading, mRNA-electroporation allows a purposeful manipulation of the DCs’ phenotype and function to enhance their immunogenicity. In this review, we intend to give a comprehensive summary of what has been published regarding clinical testing of ex vivo generated mRNA-transfected DCs, with respect to safety and risk/benefit evaluations, choice of tumor antigens and RNA-source, and the design of better DCs for vaccination by transfection of mRNA-encoded functional proteins.
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