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Neurotherapeutics. 2009 July; 6(3): 527–538.
PMCID: PMC2763142
NIHMSID: NIHMS130543

Toward effective immunotherapy for the treatment of malignant brain tumors

Summary

The immunologic treatment of cancer has long been heralded as a targeted molecular therapeutic with the promise of eradicating tumor cells with minimal damage to surrounding normal tissues. However, a demonstrative example of the efficacy of immunotherapy in modulating cancer progression is still lacking for most human cancers. Recent breakthroughs in our understanding of the mechanisms leading to full T-cell activation, and recognition of the importance of overcoming tumor-induced immunosuppressive mechanisms, have shed new light on how to generate effective anti-tumor immune responses in humans, and sparked a renewed and enthusiastic effort to realize the full potential of cancer immunotherapy. The immunologic treatment of invasive malignant brain tumors has not escaped this re-invigorated endeavor, and promising therapies are currently under active investigation in dozens of clinical trials at several institutions worldwide. This review will focus on some of the most important breakthroughs in our understanding of how to generate potent anti-tumor immune responses, and some of the clear challenges that lie ahead in achieving effective immunotherapy for the majority of patients with malignant brain tumors. A review of immunotherapeutic strategies currently under clinical evaluation, as well as an outline of promising novel approaches on the horizon, is included to provide perspective on the active and stalwart progress toward effective immunotherapy for the treatment of malignant brain tumors.

Key Words: Glioma, immunotherapy, brain tumor, cancer vaccines, dendritic cells

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