Role of natural killer cells in hormone-independent rapid tumor formation and spontaneous metastasis of breast cancer cells in vivo

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2007 Sep;104(3):267-75. doi: 10.1007/s10549-006-9416-4. Epub 2006 Oct 26.


Natural killer (NK) cells play a central role in host defense against tumor and virus-infected cells. Direct role of NK cells in tumor growth and metastasis remains to be elucidated. We here demonstrated that NOD/SCID/gammac(null) (NOG) mice lacking T, B and NK cells inoculated with breast cancer cells were efficient in the formation of a large tumor and spontaneous organ-metastasis. In contrast, breast cancer cells produced a small tumor at inoculated site in T and B cell knock-out NOD/SCID mice with NK cells while completely failed to metastasize into various organs. Immunosupression of NOD/SCID by treatment with an anti-murine TM-beta1 antibody, which transiently abrogates NK cell activity in vivo, resulted in enhancing tumor formation and organ-metastasis in comparison with non-treated NOD/SCID mice. Activated NK cells inhibited tumor growth in vivo. The rapid and efficient engraftment of the breast cancer cells in NOG mice suggests that this new animal model could provide a unique opportunity to understand and investigate the mechanism of tumor cell growth and metastasis. Our results suggest that NK cells play an important role in cancer growth and metastasis and could be a promising immunotherapeutic strategy against cancer either alone or in combination with conventional therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • K562 Cells
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Transplantation


  • Immunosuppressive Agents