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Chin J Cancer Res. 2018 Apr;30(2):173-196. doi: 10.21147/j.issn.1000-9604.2018.02.02.

Tumor immunotherapy: New aspects of natural killer cells.

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Institute of Immunology and the CAS Key Laboratory of Innate Immunity and Chronic Disease, School of Life Sciences and Medical Center, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China.


A group of impressive immunotherapies for cancer treatment, including immune checkpoint-blocking antibodies, gene therapy and immune cell adoptive cellular immunotherapy, have been established, providing new weapons to fight cancer. Natural killer (NK) cells are a component of the first line of defense against tumors and virus infections. Studies have shown dysfunctional NK cells in patients with cancer. Thus, restoring NK cell antitumor functionality could be a promising therapeutic strategy. NK cells that are activated and expanded ex vivo can supplement malfunctional NK cells in tumor patients. Therapeutic antibodies, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), or bispecific proteins can all retarget NK cells precisely to tumor cells. Therapeutic antibody blockade of the immune checkpoints of NK cells has been suggested to overcome the immunosuppressive signals delivered to NK cells. Oncolytic virotherapy provokes antitumor activity of NK cells by triggering antiviral immune responses. Herein, we review the current immunotherapeutic approaches employed to restore NK cell antitumor functionality for the treatment of cancer.


Natural killer cells; immunotherapy; neoplasms

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