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Cancer. 1995 Jan 15;75(2):539-44.

Natural killer cell activity in long-term survivors of testicular cancer. Influence of cytostatic therapy and initial stage of disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital, University of Vienna, Austria.



Patients with testicular cancer can be cured by cisplatin-based chemotherapy in many cases. Thus, concern about possible late toxicities of treatment is warranted.


In this investigation, the absolute number of natural killer (NK) cells according to their CD56+ phenotype, NK cell activity, and antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) were investigated in 29 patients with seminomas or nonseminomatous germ cell tumors (NSGCT) a median of 31 months (range, 5-73 months) after termination of chemotherapeutic treatment.


No difference in the absolute number of NK cells, NK cell activity, and ADCC was found between patients with testicular cancer after either standard polychemotherapy consisting of bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatin (BEP) or monotherapy with carboplatin and healthy control subjects. When patients were analyzed further using multivariate analysis, a significant (P < 0.05) detrimental influence of BEP polychemotherapy versus carboplatin monotherapy on NK cell activity was found. Moreover, NK cell activity also depended significantly (P < 0.05) on the time elapsed after chemotherapy was administered, but normalized with time. Because the absolute number of NK cells was not affected, is was assumed that polychemotherapy induced a functional defect. In a subanalysis of patients with NSGCTs, metastases at diagnosis resulted in a significant (p < 0.05) and persistent stimulation of NK cell activity but not of ADCC.


Cytostatic chemotherapy in patients with testicular cancer did not lead to compromised lytic effector cell function as assessed by NK cell activity and ADCC. However, a short, time-dependent reduction was found that also depended on the intensity of chemotherapeutic treatment. This finding related to the observation of a long-lasting stimulus of NK cell activity by initial metastases in patients with NSGCTs.

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