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Int J Hyperthermia. 2008 Feb;24(1):41-56. doi: 10.1080/02656730701858297.

Dissecting the role of hyperthermia in natural killer cell mediated anti-tumor responses.

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Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.


The effects of hyperthermia on natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity against tumor cell targets are not yet fully understood. A more complete understanding of these effects could be important for maximizing the clinical benefits obtained by using hyperthermia for cancer therapy. Here, we summarize results in the literature regarding the effects of elevated temperatures on NK cells and our own recent data on the effects of fever-range temperatures. At treatment temperatures above 40 degrees C, (which is above the physiological body temperatures normally achieved during fever or exercise), both enhancing and inhibitory effects on cytotoxic activity of NK cells against tumor cells have been reported. Our own results have shown that fever-range thermal stress (using a temperature of 39.5 degrees C) enhances human NK cell cytotoxicity against tumor target cells. This effect requires function of the NKG2D receptor of NK cells, and is maximal when both NK and tumor cell targets are heated. Reported heat sensitive cellular targets affected by hyperthermia on tumor cells include heat shock proteins, MICA and MHC Class I. In NK cells, plasma membrane reorganization may occur after mild heat stress. We conclude this review by listing several unresolved questions that should be addressed for a more complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms which underlie the effects of thermal stress on the function of NK cells. Altogether, the available data indicate a strong potential for heat-induced enhancement of NK cell activity in mediating, at least in part, the improved clinical responses seen when hyperthermia is used in combination with other therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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