DNA vaccination: a potential weapon against infection and cancer


: Prof. F. K. Stevenson, Molecular Immunology Group, Tenovus Laboratory and Division of Cell and Molecular Medicine, Southampton University Hospitals Trust, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK Tel.: +44 (0) 2380 796923 Fax: +44 (0) 2380 701416 E-mail: fs@soton.ac.uk


DNA vaccination is a novel approach for inducing immunity against target antigens. It provides a direct link between identification of genes encoding these antigens and incorporation of the gene sequences into a vaccine vehicle. Identification of candidate genes is proceeding very rapidly both for infectious organisms and for cancer cells. One advantage is that DNA appears to activate all pathways of immunity, especially cytotoxic T-cell responses, which have been difficult to induce with protein vaccines. For viruses, including those which have caused problems for blood transfusion, DNA vaccination could be used for prevention. However, for chronic infection, or for cancer, vaccination will be performed in a therapeutic setting. For this situation, it is probable that immune-activating sequences will have to be included in the vaccine. The ease of manipulation of gene sequences, together with the increasing knowledge of the operation of the immune system, means that we now have the tools to take vaccines into the next exciting stage of development.