Helper Innate Lymphoid Cells in Human Tumors: A Double-Edged Sword? Frontiers in Immunology

N. Tumino, P. Vacca, L. Quatrini, E. Munari, F. Moretta, A. Pelosi, F.R. Mariotti, L. Moretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) were found to be developmentally related to natural killer (NK) cells. In humans, they are mostly located in “barrier” tissues where they contribute to innate defenses against different pathogens. ILCs are heterogeneous and characterized by a high degree of plasticity. ILC1s are Tbet+, produce interferon gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha, but, unlike NK cells, are non-cytolytic and are Eomes independent. ILC2 (GATA-3+) secrete type-2 cytokines, while ILC3s secrete interleukin-22 and interleukin-17. The cytokine signatures of ILC subsets mirror those of corresponding helper T-cell subsets. The ILC role in defenses against pathogens is well-documented, while their involvement in tumor defenses is still controversial. Different ILCs have been detected in tumors. In general, the conflicting data reported in different tumors on the role of ILC may reflect the heterogeneity and/or differences in tumor microenvironment. The remarkable plasticity of ILCs suggests new therapeutic approaches to induce differentiation/switch toward ILC subsets more favorable in tumor control. © Copyright © 2020 Tumino, Vacca, Quatrini, Munari, Moretta, Pelosi, Mariotti and Moretta.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFront. Immunol.
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • antitumor immune response
  • checkpoint inhibitors
  • immunotherapy
  • innate lymphoid cells
  • natural killer cells
  • gamma interferon
  • interleukin 17
  • interleukin 22
  • tumor necrosis factor
  • helper cell
  • human
  • innate lymphoid cell 1
  • innate lymphoid cell 2
  • innate lymphoid cell 3
  • lymphoid cell
  • neoplasm
  • nonhuman
  • Review
  • tumor microenvironment
  • immunology
  • innate immunity
  • lymphocyte
  • lymphocyte subpopulation
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lymphocyte Subsets
  • Lymphocytes
  • Neoplasms


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