Survival of gastrointestinal cancer remains dismal, especially for metastasized disease. For various cancers, especially melanoma and lung cancer, immunotherapy has been proven to confer survival benefits, but results for gastrointestinal cancer have been disappointing. Hence, there is substantial interest in exploring the usefulness of adaptive immune system education with respect to anti-cancer responses though vaccination. Encouragingly, even fairly non-specific approaches to vaccination and immune system stimulation, involving for instance influenza vaccines, have shown promising results, eliciting hopes that selection of specific antigens for vaccination may prove useful for at least a subset of gastrointestinal cancers. It is widely recognized that immune recognition and initiation of responses are hampered by a lack of T cell help, or by suppressive cancer-associated factors. In this review we will discuss the hurdles that limit efficacy of conventional cancer therapeutic vaccination methods (e.g., peptide vaccines, dendritic cell vaccination). In addition, we will outline other forms of treatment (e.g., radiotherapy, chemotherapy, oncolytic viruses) that also cause the release of antigens through immunogenic tumor cell death and can thus be considered unconventional vaccination methods (i.e., in situ vaccination). Finally, we focus on the potential additive value that vaccination strategies may have for improving the effect immunotherapy. Overall, a picture will emerge that although the field has made substantial progress, successful immunotherapy through the combination with cancer antigen vaccination, including that for gastrointestinal cancers, is still in its infancy, prompting further intensification of the research effort in this respect.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited