T and NK cells: Two sides of tumor immunoevasion

Doriana Fruci, Elisa L. Monaco, Loredana Cifaldi, Franco Locatelli, Elisa Tremante, Maria Benevolo, Patrizio Giacomini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural Killer (NK) cells are known to reject several experimental murine tumors, but their antineoplastic activity in humans is not generally agreed upon, as exemplified by an interesting correspondence recently appeared in Cancer Research. In the present commentary, we join the discussion and bring to the attention of the readers of the Journal of Translational Medicine a set of recent, related reports. These studies demonstrate that effectors of the adaptive and innate immunity need to actively cooperate in order to reject tumors and, conversely, tumors protect themselves by dampening both T and NK cell responses. The recently reported ability of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) expressed by melanoma cells to down-regulate activating NK receptors is yet another piece of evidence supporting combined and highly effective T/NK cell disabling. Major Histocompatibility Complex class I (MHC-I) molecules, including Human Leukocyte Antigen E (HLA-E), represent another class of shared activating/inhibitory ligands. Ongoing clinical trials with small molecules interfering with IDO and PGE2 may be exploiting an immune bonus to control cancer. Conversely, failure to simultaneously engage effectors of both the innate and the adaptive immunity may contribute to explain the limited clinical efficacy of T cell-only vaccination trials. Shared (T/NK cells) natural immunosuppressants and activating/inhibitory ligands expressed by tumor cells may provide mechanistic insight into impaired gathering and function of immune effectors at the tumor site.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 4 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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