Quantitating cellular immune responses to cancer vaccines.
While the future of immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer is promising, it is difficult to compare the various approaches because monitoring assays have not been standardized in approach or technique. Common assays for measuring the immune response need to be established so that these assays can one day serve as surrogate markers for clinical response. Assays that accurately detect and quantitate T-cell-mediated, antigen-specific immune responses are particularly desired. However, to date, increases in the number of cytotoxic T cells through immunization have not been correlated with clinical tumor regression. Ideally, then, a T-cell assay not only needs to be sensitive, specific, reliable, reproducible, simple, and quick to perform, it must also demonstrate close correlation with clinical outcome. Assays currently used to measure T-cell response are delayed-type hypersensitivity testing, flow cytometry using peptide major histocompatibility complex tetramers, lymphoproliferation assay, enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay, enzyme-linked immunospot assay, cytokine flow cytometry, direct cytotoxicity assay, measurement of cytokine mRNA by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, and limiting dilution analysis. The purpose of this review is to describe the attributes of each test and compare their advantages and disadvantages.
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