Dendritic cells (DCs) are a family of professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs) that are able to initiate innate and adaptive immune responses against pathogens and tumor cells. The DC family is heterogeneous and is classically divided into two main subsets, each with its unique phenotypic and functional characteristics: myeloid DCs (mDCs) and plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). Recent results have provided intriguing evidence that both DC subsets can also function as direct cytotoxic effector cells; in particular, against cancer cells. In this review, we delve into this understudied function of human DCs and discuss why these so-called killer DCs might become important tools in future cancer immunotherapies.
Keywords: TRAIL; antitumor therapy; cytotoxicity; granzyme B; myeloid dendritic cells; plasmacytoid dendritic cells.
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