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Front Immunol. 2017 Nov 13;8:1544. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01544. eCollection 2017.

Interplay between Natural Killer Cells and Anti-HER2 Antibodies: Perspectives for Breast Cancer Immunotherapy.

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Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Oncology, Hospital del Mar-CIBERONC, Barcelona, Spain.
Hospital Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Madrid, Spain.
Univ. Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.


Overexpression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) defines a subgroup of breast tumors with aggressive behavior. The addition of HER2-targeted antibodies (i.e., trastuzumab, pertuzumab) to chemotherapy significantly improves relapse-free and overall survival in patients with early-stage and advanced disease. Nonetheless, considerable proportions of patients develop resistance to treatment, highlighting the need for additional and co-adjuvant therapeutic strategies. HER2-specific antibodies can trigger natural killer (NK) cell-mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and indirectly enhance the development of tumor-specific T cell immunity; both mechanisms contributing to their antitumor efficacy in preclinical models. Antibody-dependent NK cell activation results in the release of cytotoxic granules as well as the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e., IFNγ and TNFα) and chemokines. Hence, NK cell tumor suppressive functions include direct cytolytic killing of tumor cells as well as the regulation of subsequent antitumor adaptive immunity. Albeit tumors with gene expression signatures associated to the presence of cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltrates benefit from trastuzumab-based treatment, NK cell-related biomarkers of response/resistance to HER2-specific therapeutic antibodies in breast cancer patients remain elusive. Several variables, including (i) the configuration of the patient NK cell repertoire; (ii) tumor molecular features (i.e., estrogen receptor expression); (iii) concomitant therapeutic regimens (i.e., chemotherapeutic agents, tyrosine kinase inhibitors); and (iv) evasion mechanisms developed by progressive breast tumors, have been shown to quantitatively and qualitatively influence antibody-triggered NK cell responses. In this review, we discuss possible interventions for restoring/enhancing the therapeutic activity of HER2 therapeutic antibodies by harnessing NK cell antitumor potential through combinatorial approaches, including immune checkpoint blocking/stimulatory antibodies, cytokines and toll-like receptor agonists.


antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity; breast cancer; human epidermal growth factor receptor 2; immunotherapy; natural killer cells; pertuzumab; trastuzumab

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