Taxanes enhance trastuzumab-mediated ADCC on tumor cells through NKG2D-mediated NK cell recognition

Martina Di Modica, Lucia Sfondrini, Viola Regondi, Stefania Varchetta, Barbara Oliviero, Gabriella Mariani, Giulia Valeria Bianchi, Daniele Generali, Andrea Balsari, Tiziana Triulzi, Elda Tagliabue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent clinical data indicate a synergistic therapeutic effect between trastuzumab and taxanes in neoadjuvantly treated HER2-positive breast cancer (BC) patients. In HER2+ BC experimental models and patients, we investigated whether this synergy depends on the ability of drug-induced stress to improve NK cell effectiveness and thus trastuzumab-mediated ADCC. HER2+ BC cell lines BT474 and MDAMB361 treated with docetaxel showed up-modulation of NK activator ligands both in vitro and in vivo, accompanied by a 15-40% increase in in vitro trastuzumab-mediated ADCC; antibodies blocking the NKG2D receptor significantly reduced this enhancement. NKG2D receptor expression was increased by docetaxel treatment in circulating and splenic NK cells from mice xenografted with tumor cells, an increase related to expansion of the CD11b+Ly6G+ cell population. Accordingly, NK cells derived from HER2+ BC patients after treatment with taxane-containing therapy expressed higher levels of NKG2D receptor than before treatment. Moreover, plasma obtained from these patients recapitulated the modulation of NKG2D on healthy donors' NK cells, improving their trastuzumab-mediated activity in vitro. This enhancement occurred mainly using plasma from patients with low NKG2D basal expression. Our results indicate that taxanes increase tumor susceptibility to ADCC by acting on tumor and NK cells, and suggest that taxanes concomitantly administered with trastuzumab could maximize the antibody effect, especially in patients with low basal immune effector cytotoxic activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-265
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • ADCC
  • Breast cancer
  • Docetaxel
  • NK cell
  • NKG2D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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