A carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)-based DNA vaccine, adsorbed onto cationic microparticles of poly(DL-lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG) induced tumor-protective immunity against a lethal challenge of MC38-CEA colon carcinoma cells in CEA-transgenic mice that was more potent than that of the corresponding naked DNA vaccine. Boosting with a plasmid encoding murine GM-CSF increased the vaccine's efficacy leading to a complete rejection of tumor cells in 50% of mice. This effect was due to activation of MHC class I-restricted CD8(+) T cells coupled with an increased secretion of proinflammatory cytokines IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha and IL-2. Also, specific activation of dendritic cells was indicated by a two-three-fold upregulation of their costimulatory CD80 and MHC class II molecules. This approach may be a promising new strategy for the rational design of cancer vaccines for future clinical applications.