Dendritic cells (DCs) are essential in immunity owing to their role in activating T cells, thereby promoting antitumor responses. Tumor cells, however, hijack the immune system, causing T cell exhaustion and DC dysfunction. Tumor-induced T cell exhaustion may be reversed through immune checkpoint blockade (ICB); however, this treatment fails to show clinical benefit in many patients. While ICB serves to reverse T cell exhaustion, DCs are still necessary to prime, activate, and direct the T cells to target tumor cells. In this review we provide a brief overview of DC function, describe mechanisms by which DC functions are disrupted by the tumor microenvironment, and highlight recent developments in DC cancer vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalTrends in Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • cancer
  • dendritic cells
  • immune suppression
  • immunotherapy
  • tumor microenvironment
  • vaccines


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