Mechanisms of tumor and viral immune escape from natural killer cell-mediated surveillance

J Innate Immun. 2011;3(4):344-54. doi: 10.1159/000327014. Epub 2011 May 11.


Human natural killer (NK) cells recognize and efficiently eliminate MHC class I low or negative malignant targets and virally infected host cells, without requirement for prior sensitization. However, viruses and various tumor cells display elaborate adaptations to evade and overcome immunosurveillance. The current review focuses on escape mechanisms of viruses and malignantly transformed 'stressed' cells to evade from NK cell cytotoxicity. A general overview of recent clinical studies using allogeneic donor NK cells is given, summarizing first data about a possible benefit for patients suffering from high-risk leukemia and solid tumors. Finally, the review discusses the future perspectives and hypotheses aiming to improve therapeutic NK cell strategies against tumor immune escape mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion / immunology*
  • Immunotherapy
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / transplantation
  • Monitoring, Immunologic*
  • Neuroblastoma / immunology
  • Neuroblastoma / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Escape / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*