Advantages and clinical applications of natural killer cells in cancer immunotherapy
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The past decade has witnessed a burgeoning of research and further insight into the biology and clinical applications of natural killer (NK) cells. Once thought to be simple innate cells important only as cytotoxic effector cells, our understanding of NK cells has grown to include memory-like responses, the guidance of adaptive responses, tissue repair, and a delicate paradigm for how NK cells become activated now termed “licensing” or “arming.” Although these cells were initially discovered and named for their spontaneous ability to kill tumor cells, manipulating NK cells in therapeutic settings has proved difficult and complex in part due to our emerging understanding of their biology. Therapies involving NK cells may either activate endogenous NK cells or involve transfers of exogenous cells by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation or adoptive cell therapy. Here, we review the basic biology of NK cells, highlighting characteristics which make NK cells particularly useful in cancer therapies. We also explore current treatment strategies that have been used for cancer as well as discuss potential future directions for the field.
KeywordsNK cells HSCT Adoptive transfer Cytokines CITIM 2013
The authors wish to thank Stephanie Mac, Can M. Sungur, Anthony E. Zamora, and Maite Alvarez for editing the manuscript and for helpful discussions. This work was funded in part by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant R01-HL089905.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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