Cancer immunotherapy with interleukin-2-activated natural killer cells

Mol Biotechnol. 2002 Jun;21(2):161-70. doi: 10.1385/MB:21:2:161.


Natural killer (NK) cells are a subset of lymphocytes with a distinct morphologic appearance (large granular lymphocytes [LGL]) and the ability to kill virally infected and tumor targets but to spare most normal cells. NK cells respond to a variety of biologic agents, such as interleukin-2 (IL-2), or interferons, by upregulation of cytolytic, secretory, and proliferative functions. In cancer-bearing hosts, NK cells have been considered to be the major component of antitumor immunity responsible for rapid elimination of malignant cells from the blood. More recently, however, studies have demonstrated the ability of adoptively transferred, IL-2-activated NK cells to selectively localize into solid tumors tissue and to eliminate established tumors. While these findings indicate a role for NK cells in cancer immunotherapy, additional studies are needed in both animal models and in humans to optimize clinical protocols of cancer therapy based on these cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Interleukin-2