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Optimal MHC-II-restricted tumor antigen presentation to CD4+ T helper cells: the key issue for development of anti-tumor vaccines

Roberto S Accolla* and Giovanna Tosi

Author Affiliations

Department of Surgical and Morphological Sciences, University of Insubria, Via Ottorino Rossi, n.9, 21100 Varese, Italy

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2012, 10:154  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-154

Published: 31 July 2012


Present immunoprevention and immunotherapeutic approaches against cancer suffer from the limitation of being not “sterilizing” procedures, as very poor protection against the tumor is obtained. Thus newly conceived anti-tumor vaccination strategies are urgently needed. In this review we will focus on ways to provide optimal MHC class II-restricted tumor antigen presentation to CD4+ T helper cells as a crucial parameter to get optimal and protective adaptive immune response against tumor. Through the description of successful preventive or therapeutic experimental approaches to vaccinate the host against the tumor we will show that optimal activation of MHC class II-restricted tumor specific CD4+ T helper cells can be achieved in various ways. Interestingly, the success in tumor eradication and/or growth arrest generated by classical therapies such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy in some instances can be re-interpreted on the basis of an adaptive immune response induced by providing suitable access of tumor-associated antigens to MHC class II molecules. Therefore, focussing on strategies to generate better and suitable MHC class II–restricted activation of tumor specific CD4+ T helper cells may have an important impact on fighting and defeating cancer.

Tumor immunity; Vaccine; T helper cells; CIITA; MHC class II