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Scientifica (Cairo). 2014;2014:205796. doi: 10.1155/2014/205796. Epub 2014 Jun 25.

Utilizing cytokines to function-enable human NK cells for the immunotherapy of cancer.

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1
Division of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.

Abstract

Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphoid cells important for host defense against pathogens and mediate antitumor immunity. Cytokine receptors transduce important signals that regulate proliferation, survival, activation status, and trigger effector functions. Here, we review the roles of major cytokines that regulate human NK cell development, survival, and function, including IL-2, IL-12, IL-15, IL-18, and IL-21, and their translation to the clinic as immunotherapy agents. We highlight a recent development in NK cell biology, the identification of innate NK cell memory, and focus on cytokine-induced memory-like (CIML) NK cells that result from a brief, combined activation with IL-12, IL-15, and IL-18. This activation results in long lived NK cells that exhibit enhanced functionality when they encounter a secondary stimulation and provides a new approach to enable NK cells for enhanced responsiveness to infection and cancer. An improved understanding of the cellular and molecular aspects of cytokine-cytokine receptor signals has led to a resurgence of interest in the clinical use of cytokines that sustain and/or activate NK cell antitumor potential. In the future, such strategies will be combined with negative regulatory signal blockade and enhanced recognition to comprehensively enhance NK cells for immunotherapy.

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