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Monoclonal antibodies used in oncology exert direct anti-tumor action leading to cancer cell death. This is due to a variety of mechanisms, ranging from the induction of apoptosis to the recruitment of effector cells from the innate immunity. However, antibodies can also induce long-lasting anti-tumor effects thanks to the induction of an adaptive immunity where CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells play a central role. Different preclinical experimental models, strengthened by a few clinical observations, have shown that, far from being involved only in passive immunotherapy, monoclonal antibodies used in oncology are also endowed with a "vaccine" effect, inducing immune memory, likely responsible for the long-lasting clinical responses that have been sometimes observed. This capacity of triggering/re-installing tumor immune surveillance could be also reinforced by the use, possibly in combination, of antibodies antagonizing molecules such as CTLA-4 or PD-1 that play a key role in the inhibition of the anti-tumor immune responses. Finally, this novel paradigm of therapeutic anti-tumor antibodies as inducers of anti-tumor adaptive immune responses with long-term memory should lead us to re-examine how antibody treatment, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and biological response modifiers are combined, in particular both in terms of timing and doses.

Original publication




Journal article


Med sci (paris)

Publication Date





57 - 63


Adaptive Immunity, Antibodies, Monoclonal, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cancer Vaccines, Humans, Immunization, Passive, Neoplasms, Vaccination