Dendritic cells (DCs) are central players in the immune system, with an exquisite capacity to initiate and modulate immune responses. These functional characteristics have led to intense research on the development of DC-based immunotherapies, particularly for oncologic diseases. During recent decades, DC-based vaccines have generated very promising results in animal studies, and more than 300 clinical assays have demonstrated the safety profile of this approach. However, clinical data are inconsistent, and clear evidence of meaningful efficacy is still lacking. One of the reasons for this lack of evidence is the limited functional abilities of the used ex vivo-differentiated DCs. Therefore, alternative approaches for targeting and modulating endogenous DC subpopulations have emerged as an attractive concept. Here, we sought to revise the evolution of several strategies for the in situ mobilization and modulation of DCs. The first approaches using chemokine-secreting irradiated tumor cells are addressed, and special attention is given to the cutting-edge injectable bioengineered platforms, programmed to release chemoattractants, tumor antigens and DC maturating agents. Finally, we discuss how our increasing knowledge of DC biology, the use of neoantigens and their combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors can leverage the refinement of these polymeric vaccines to boost their antitumor efficacy.
Biomaterial-based platforms for in situ dendritic cell programming and their use in antitumor immunotherapy
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