Immunology and immunotherapy of colorectal cancer

Piero Dalerba, Cristina Maccalli, Chiara Casati, Chiara Castelli, Giorgio Parmiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This review critically discusses data on immunology of colorectal cancer, starting from pathology and molecular biology, and then considering the molecular characterisation of colon cancer antigens and the clinical trials of immunotherapy. A careful evaluation of histopathological studies on intra-epithelial infiltration by T cells in primary tumours, together with the analysis of HLA expression by colorectal cancer cells, suggest that anti-tumour T cell immune responses may take place in vivo in those patients, influencing prognosis and shaping the tumour immunological profile. Moreover, the molecular characterisation of tumour antigens expressed by colorectal carcinomas, together with improved understanding of mechanisms of the immune response and more sensitive methods for the in vivo detection of T cell responses, are now allowing researchers to design new and more effective vaccination protocols, with encouraging preliminary results. By drawing together the experimental evidence from different research fields, this review provides support for the concept that colorectal carcinoma is immunogenic and may reasonably be considered as a target for immunotherapy, and attempts to address critical issues and envisage future developments in this challenging research field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-57
Number of pages25
JournalCritical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Immunotherapy
  • T cells
  • Tumour antigens
  • Tumour vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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