Article abstract

Nature Materials 8, 151 - 158 (2009)
Published online: 11 January 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmat2357

Subject Categories: Polymers | Biological materials | Biomedical materials

Infection-mimicking materials to program dendritic cells in situ

Omar A. Ali1, Nathaniel Huebsch1,2, Lan Cao1, Glenn Dranoff3 & David J. Mooney1,4,5

Cancer vaccines typically depend on cumbersome and expensive manipulation of cells in the laboratory, and subsequent cell transplantation leads to poor lymph-node homing and limited efficacy. We propose that materials mimicking key aspects of bacterial infection may instead be used to directly control immune-cell trafficking and activation in the body. It is demonstrated that polymers can be designed to first release a cytokine to recruit and house host dendritic cells, and subsequently present cancer antigens and danger signals to activate the resident dendritic cells and markedly enhance their homing to lymph nodes. Specific and protective anti-tumour immunity was generated with these materials, as 90% survival was achieved in animals that otherwise die from cancer within 25 days. These materials show promise as cancer vaccines, and more broadly suggest that polymers may be designed to program and control the trafficking of a variety of cell types in the body.

  1. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  2. Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  3. Department of Medical Oncology and Cancer Vaccine Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA
  4. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  5. Present address: Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, 29 Oxford St., 319 Pierce Hall, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

Correspondence to: David J. Mooney1,4,5 e-mail:


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