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Exp Hematol. 2012 Nov;40(11):882-891.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2012.07.004. Epub 2012 Jul 4.

Natural killer cells can exert a graft-vs-tumor effect in haploidentical stem cell transplantation for pediatric solid tumors.

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Department of Hemato-Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Hospital Infantil Universitario Niño Jesús, Madrid, Spain.


Little progress has been made with regard to the survival of children with metastatic and refractory solid tumors. Preliminary data from haploidentical stem cell transplantation (haplo-SCT) suggested a clinically beneficial allograft-vs-tumor effect associated with natural killer cell (NK) donor-recipient mismatch. We hypothesized that interaction between activatory receptors on NK cells and their ligands on tumor cells could be also important. To evaluate the NK-cell-mediated allograft-vs-tumor effect, we conducted a pilot study of haplo-SCT on six children with refractory solid tumors. Our specific goal for this study was NKG2D-major histocompatibility complex class I-related chain A interaction. Tasks include specific immunoassays that support haplo-SCT in refractory solid tumors. Patients suffered from neuroblastoma (n = 1), Ewing sarcoma (n = 2), a desmoplastic tumor (n = 1), nasopharyngeal carcinoma (n = 1), and embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (n = 1). Pretransplantation disease status showed progressive disease in 2 patients, partial remission in 2 patients, and complete remission in 2 patients. NK-cell mismatch was present in three donor-recipients. Ligands for NKG2D receptors, major histocompatibility complex class I-related chain A and UL16 binding protein 2 were overexpressed in six of six and four of six tumors, respectively. NK cells led early immune reconstitution. After haplo-SCT, three patients were in complete remission, one patient showed partial remission, and two patients were in stable disease. With a median follow-up of 14 months, three patients were alive and in complete remission, and three patients had died; two due to progressive disease and one of transplant-related toxicity. Blocking NKG2D-major histocompatibility complex class I-related chain A interaction in vitro reduced NK-cell cytotoxicity. Our preliminary results suggest a beneficial effect from haplo-SCT in refractory solid tumors.

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