Classification of current anticancer immunotherapies.
During the past decades, anticancer immunotherapy has evolved from a promising therapeutic option to a robust clinical reality. Many immunotherapeutic regimens are now approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency for use in cancer patients, and many others are being investigated as standalone therapeutic interventions or combined with conventional treatments in clinical studies. Immunotherapies may be subdivided into "passive" and "active" based on their ability to engage the host immune system against cancer. Since the anticancer activity of most passive immunotherapeutics (including tumor-targeting monoclonal antibodies) also relies on the host immune system, this classification does not properly reflect the complexity of the drug-host-tumor interaction. Alternatively, anticancer immunotherapeutics can be classified according to their antigen specificity. While some immunotherapies specifically target one (or a few) defined tumor-associated antigen(s), others operate in a relatively non-specific manner and boost natural or therapy-elicited anticancer immune responses of unknown and often broad specificity. Here, we propose a critical, integrated classification of anticancer immunotherapies and discuss the clinical relevance of these approaches.