Antitumor activity of NK cells

Immunol Res. 2006;36(1-3):13-25. doi: 10.1385/IR:36:1:13.


NK cells have been shown to play an important role in the lungs with regards to tumor cell clearance and resistance of this organ to metastases. Here, we have investigated whether NK cells play a similar role in organs other than the lungs. We conclude that while organ-resistance to metastases correlates well with the NK activity of the host, a clear correlation between NK activity and clearance of tumor cells is found only in the lungs. We also demonstrate that activation of NK cells with the TLR 3 ligand poly I:C results in a substantial increase in the number of organ-associated NK cells. This increase may explain the increased resistance to metastasis seen in many organs after poly I:C treatment. Finally, we present data showing that NK cells activated ex vivo with IL-2 are able to localize to lung tumors following iv adoptive transfer and to significantly reduce the tumors they infiltrate. We conclude that NK cells, which currently are under intense investigation owing to their newly discovered immunoregulatory functions, remain very potent antitumor killer cells capable of killing not only circulating tumor cells, but also well-established micro metastases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*