Targeted therapies: Friends or foes for patient's NK cell-mediated tumor immune-surveillance?

Laura Damele, Selene Ottonello, Maria Cristina Mingari, Gabriella Pietra, Chiara Vitale

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In the last 20 years there has been a huge increase in the number of novel drugs for cancer treatment. Most of them exploit their ability to target specific oncogenic mutations in the tumors (targeted therapies–TT), while others target the immune-checkpoint inhibitor molecules (ICI) or the epigenetic DNA modifications. Among them, TT are the longest established drugs exploited against a wide spectrum of both solid and hematological tumors, often with reasonable costs and good efficacy as compared to other innovative therapies (i.e., ICI). Although they have greatly improved the treatment of cancer patients and their survival, patients often relapse or develop drug-resistance, leading to the impossibility to eradicate the disease. The outcome of TT has been often correlated with their ability to affect not only tumor cells, but also the repertoire of immune cells and their ability to interact with cancer cells. Thus, the possibility to create novel synergies among drugs an immunotherapy prompted scientists and physicians to deeply characterize the effects of TT on immune cells both by in-vitro and by ex-vivo analyses. In this context, NK cells may represent a key issue, since they have been shown to exert a potent anti-tumor activity, both against hematological malignancies and solid tumors. In the present review we will discuss most recent ex-vivo analyses that clarify the effect of TT treatment on patient's NK cells comparing them with clinical outcome and previous in-vitro data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number774
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Cancer immunosurveillance
  • NK cells
  • Targeted immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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