Cytokine induced killer cells as promising immunotherapy for solid tumors

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Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells are a heterogeneous subset of ex-vivo expanded T lymphocytes which present a mixed T-NK phenotype and are endowed with a MHC-unrestricted antitumor activity. The main functional properties of CIK cells may address some of the main limitations that are currently preventing the successful clinical translation of adoptive immunotherapy strategies. Clinically adequate quantities of immune effectors, sufficient for multiple adoptive infusions, may be obtained based on their relatively easy and inexpensive ex-vivo expansion starting from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The MHC-unrestricted tumor-killing is mainly based on the interaction between NKG2D molecules on CIK cells and MIC A/B or ULBPs molecules on tumor cells; it has been proved effective against several solid and hematological malignancies and does not require any HLA-restriction increasing the number of patients that might potentially benefit from such approach. Finally, CIK cells present a reduced alloreactivity across HLA-barriers with important clinical implications for their potential use as alternative to conventional Donor Lymphocyte Infusions after allogeneic hemopoietic cell transplant with a reduced risk of GVHD. In the present report we review the main functional characteristics of CIK cells discussing recent findings and future perspectives to improve their antitumor activity and potential clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-368
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Adoptive immunotherapy
  • CIK cells
  • Solid tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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