Enhancement of natural killer cell effector functions against selected lymphoma and leukemia cell lines by dasatinib

Int J Cancer. 2012 Sep 15;131(6):E916-27. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27537. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


As NK cell immunotherapy is still poorly successful, combinations with drugs enhancing NK cell activity are of major interest. NK large granular lymphocyte expansions associated with improved survival have been described under monotherapy with the Bcr-Abl/Src inhibitor dasatinib, which inhibits NK cell functions in vitro. As Src kinases play a major role in inhibitory and activating signaling pathways of NK cells, both outcomes appear plausible. To clarify these contradictory observations and potentially enable the use of dasatinib as adjuvant, we analyzed how clinically relevant doses promote NK cell effector functions. Polyclonal human NK cells were studied ex vivo. Functional outcomes assessed included conjugate formation, calcium flux, receptor regulation, cytokine production, degranulation, cytotoxicity, apoptosis induction and signal transduction. While dasatinib inhibits NK cell effector functions during functional assays, 24 hr pretreatment of NK cells followed by washout of dasatinib, led to dose-dependent enhancement of cytokine production, degranulation marker expression and cytotoxicity against selected lymphoma and leukemia cell lines. Mechanistically, this was neither due to an altered viability of NK cells nor increased NKG2D, LFA-1 or conjugate formation with target cells. Receptor proximal signaling events were inhibited. However, a slight time dependent enhancement of Vav phosphorylation was observed under certain circumstances. The shift in Vav phosphorylation level may be one major mechanism for NK cell activity enhancement induced by dasatinib. Our findings argue for a careful timing and dosing of dasatinib application during leukemia/lymphoma treatment to enhance NK cell immunotherapeutic efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects*
  • Dasatinib
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / analysis
  • Granzymes / biosynthesis
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / analysis
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Leukemia / immunology*
  • Leukemia / pathology
  • Lymphoma / immunology*
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 1 / biosynthesis
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 2 / biosynthesis
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K / analysis
  • Necrosis
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, IgG / analysis
  • Thiazoles / pharmacology*


  • Cytokines
  • FCGR3B protein, human
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • HLA-E antigen
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • KLRK1 protein, human
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 1
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 2
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidines
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Thiazoles
  • Granzymes
  • Dasatinib
  • Calcium