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J Biomed Biotechnol. 2011;2011:676198. doi: 10.1155/2011/676198. Epub 2011 Apr 26.

Natural killer cells in human cancer: from biological functions to clinical applications.

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Centro de Investigaciones Oncológicas, Fundación Cáncer e Instituto Alexander Fleming, Cramer 1180, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Natural killer (NK) cells are central components of the innate immunity. In murine models, it has been shown that NK cells can control both local tumor growth and metastasis due to their ability to exert direct cellular cytotoxicity without prior sensitization and to secrete immunostimulatory cytokines like IFN-γ. The latter participates in cancer elimination by inhibiting cellular proliferation and angiogenesis, promoting apoptosis, and stimulating the adaptive immune system, and it is instrumental for enhancing Ag processing and presentation. Nevertheless, NK cells display impaired functionality and capability to infiltrate tumors in cancer patients. Also, NK cells are feasible targets of stimulation to participate in immunotherapeutic approaches like antibody-based strategies and adoptive cell transfer. Thus, multiple attempts currently aim to manipulate NK for utilization in the immunotherapy of cancer.

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