Immunotherapy uses natural body defenses to fight diseases such as cancer. There are immunotherapy approaches that involve the use of dendritic cells, cells that present antigens to T cells for destruction. Dendritic cells earned the name of “natural adjuvants” because of their special and potent antigen presenting function. When dendritic cells come in contact with an antigen, they engulf or take up the antigen. The antigen is then processed for presentation to CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. This activates the T cells to begin the process of antigen deactivation and killing.
The immune system and the dendritic cell−T cell interaction is crucial for tumor cell attack. This relationship has been exploited in the development of dendritic cell−based immunotherapies such as vaccinations to destroy tumor cells. However, research is ongoing to determine the best methods and approaches to develop dendritic cell−based vaccines with optimal functionality.
The challenges to determine the best way to produce dendritic cells for immunotherapy are ongoing. A current approach to obtain dendritic cells includes generating them in the laboratory setting (in vitro) from monocytes or CD34+ cells. These are then activated using specific molecules of the immune system machinery and then injected back into the patients. Antibodies bound to antigen are also employed to target dendritic cells. New approaches being investigated includes the generation of dendritic cells that are genetically engineered from stem cells. Also, dendritic cells express c-type lectin receptors (CLRs). These CLRs are involved in the capture of various types of antigens and are thought to be possible targets for the development of effective dendritic-cell vaccines.
Although there are currently a number of clinical trials being conducted, challenges to determine the best method to use dendritic cell vaccines remain. Emerging data is adding to the repertoire of information that will help conquer these challenges. This will lead to more effective tumor-killing vaccines available to the cancer therapeutic arena.
Reference: Sabado, Rachel L, Sreekumar Balan, and Nina Bhardwaj. "Dendritic Cell-Based Immunotherapy". N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.