Direct vaccination with mRNA encoding tumor antigens is a novel and promising approach in cancer immunotherapy. CureVac's mRNA vaccines contain free and protamine-complexed mRNA. Such two-component mRNA vaccines support both antigen expression and immune stimulation. These self-adjuvanting RNA vaccines, administered intradermally without any additional adjuvant, induce a comprehensive balanced immune response, comprising antigen specific CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells and B cells. The balanced immune response results in a strong anti-tumor effect and complete protection against antigen positive tumor cells. This tumor inhibition elicited by mRNA vaccines is a result of the concerted action of different players. After just two intradermal vaccinations, we observe multiple changes at the tumor site, including the up-regulation of many genes connected to T and natural killer cell activation, as well as genes responsible for improved infiltration of immune cells into the tumor via chemotaxis. The two-component mRNA vaccines induce a very fast and boostable immune response. Therefore, the vaccination schedules can be adjusted to suit the clinical situation. Moreover, by combining the mRNA vaccines with therapies in clinical use (chemotherapy or anti-CTLA-4 antibody therapy), an even more effective anti-tumor response can be elicited. The first clinical data obtained from two separate Phase I/IIa trials conducted in PCA (prostate cancer) and NSCLC (non-small cell lung carcinoma) patients have shown that the two-component mRNA vaccines are safe, well tolerated and highly immunogenic in humans. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.