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Anticancer Res. 2018 Feb;38(2):655-663.

Natural Killer Cell Viability After Hyperthermia Alone or Combined with Radiotherapy with or without Cytokines.

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Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
Department of Oncology, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
Department of Medical Physics, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.



The effects of hyperthermia and irradiation, alone and in combination, on natural killer (NK) cell viability were investigated in vitro. The roles of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon (IFN) α, β and γ in rescuing NK cells from hyperthermia and irradiation were studied.


Non-selected NK cells were used as effector cells and K-562 cells as target cells. NK and K-562 cells were treated at 37 to 45°C for 0 to 180 min. The cells were irradiated at room temperature using single doses from 0 to 60 Gy. Recombinant IL-2 at 100 to 450 U/ml and recombinant IFNα, β and γ at 1,000 U/ml were used for different periods of time. NK cell viability was measured by intracellular adenosine tri-, and diphosphate (ATP, ADP) levels via luminometer, trypan blue exclusion and propidium iodide (PI) staining. Binding capacity of NK effector cells to target K-562 cells was also microscopically assessed.


Thermal treatments between 37 and 41°C did not significantly affect the ATP levels of NK cells. Between 41°C and 42°C, ATP levels significantly decreased, whilst there was an insignificant reduction up to 45°C. At 42°C or higher, no recovery was detectable. At 42°C, the ATP level of NK cells rescued by IL-2 were significantly higher than those of controls at 37°C. IFNα, β and γ had no significant effects. A combination of heating at 42°C and irradiation at 20 Gy significantly reduced the ATP levels (p<0.001) more than heating and irradiation alone. At 42°C, IL-2 abolished the reduction of ATP levels by heating and irradiation. This effect was dependent on heating time and irradiation dose. The ATP/ADP ratio did not significantly change when NK cells were heated for different times at 42°C. Thermal treatment of target K-562 cells at temperatures from 37 to 45°C reduced the number of NK cells binding K-652 cells.


In vitro, NK cell viability was strongly reduced between 41°C and 42°C. At 42°C, the combination of irradiation and thermal treatment reduced the ATP levels in NK cells. However, IL-2 restored cell viability depending on thermal and radiation doses.


ADP; ATP; IFN; IL-2; Natural killer (NK) cells; hyperthermia; irradiation; recovery; viability

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