IL15 induces a potent antitumor activity in NK cells isolated from malignant pleural effusions and overcomes the inhibitory effect of pleural fluid

Daniele Croxatto, S. Martini, L. Chiossone, F. Scordamaglia, C. F. Simonassi, L. Moretta, M. C. Mingari, P. Vacca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Natural Killer (NK) cells are capable of recognizing and killing cancer cells and play an important role in tumor immunosurveillance. However, tumor-infiltrating NK cells are frequently impaired in their functional capability. A remarkable exception is represented by NK cells isolated from malignant pleural effusions (PE) that are not anergic and, upon IL2-induced activation, efficiently kill tumor cells. Although IL2 is used in various clinical trials, severe side effects may occur in treated patients. In this study, we investigated whether also other clinical-grade cytokines could induce strong cytotoxicity in NK cells isolated from pleural fluid of patients with primary or metastatic tumors of different origins. We show that PE-NK cells, cultured for short-time intervals with IL15, maintain the CD56bright phenotype, a high expression of the main activating receptors, produce cytokines and kill tumor cells in vitro similarly to those treated with IL2. Moreover, IL15-activated PE-NK cells could greatly reduce the growth of established tumors in mice. This in vivo antitumor effect correlated with the ability of IL15-activated PE-NK cells to traffic from periphery to the tumor site. Finally, we show that IL15 can counteract the inhibitory effect of the tumor pleural microenvironment. Our study suggests that IL15-activated NK cells isolated from pleural fluid (otherwise discarded after thoracentesis) may represent a suitable source of effector cells to be used in adoptive immunotherapy of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1293210
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 3 2017



  • Adoptive immunotherapy
  • IL15
  • innate lymphoid cells (ILC)
  • NK cells
  • pleural fluid
  • pleural tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology

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