Natural killer (NK) cells are critical effector lymphocytes mediating tumor immune surveillance and clearance. They do so by direct tumor killing using cytolytic granules and death receptors, and by interfacing with and potentiating adaptive immune responses through the production of cytokines. From a therapeutic perspective, NK cells have been shown to exert graft-versus-leukemia activity in the context of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and are important in the clinical efficacy of antibodies. Advances in basic and translational NK cell biology have led to multiple potential strategies to augment their in vivo activity to improve antitumor responses. Despite their potent effects, NK cells have been shown to be safe for adoptive cell therapy in both the autologous and allogeneic settings, with promising, but so far limited, clinical efficacy. This review will provide an overview of strategies being pursued to improve NK cell activity and efficacy, focusing on cell source, NK cell activation, and in vivo persistence.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
K.V. Woan was supported by an NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Hematology in Research training grant (T32HL007062-42). J.S. Miller was supported by NIH NCI grants R35CA197292, P01CA111412, and P01CA065493.
© 2019 American Association for Cancer Research.