NK cells to cure cancer

Clara Di Vito, Joanna Mikulak, Elisa Zaghi, Silvia Pesce, Emanuela Marcenaro, Domenico Mavilio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Natural Killer (NK) cells are innate lymphocytes able to mediate immune-surveillance and clearance of viral infected and tumor-transformed cells. Growing experimental and clinical evidence highlighted a dual role of NK cells either in the control of cancer development/progression or in promoting the onset of immune-suppressant tumor microenvironments. Indeed, several mechanisms of NK cell-mediated tumor escape have been described and these includes cancer-induced aberrant expression of activating and inhibitory receptors (i.e. NK cell immune checkpoints), impairments of NK cell migration to tumor sites and altered NK cell effector-functions. These phenomena highly contribute to tumor progression and metastasis formation. In this review, we discuss the latest insights on those NK cell receptors and related molecules that are currently being implemented in clinics either as possible prognostic factors or therapeutic targets to unleash NK cell anti-tumor effector-functions in vivo. Moreover, we address here the major recent advances in regard to the genetic modification and ex vivo expansion of anti-tumor specific NK cells used in innovative adoptive cellular transfer approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101272
JournalSeminars in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


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