Natural killer (NK) cells play a major role in cancer immunotherapies that involve tumor-antigen targeting by monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). NK cells express a variety of activating and inhibitory receptors that serve to regulate the function and activity of the cells. In the context of targeting cells, NK cells can be "specifically activated" through certain Fc receptors that are expressed on their cell surface. NK cells can express FcγRIIIA and/or FcγRIIC, which can bind to the Fc portion of immunoglobulins, transmitting activating signals within NK cells. Once activated through Fc receptors by antibodies bound to target cells, NK cells are able to lyse target cells without priming, and secrete cytokines like interferon gamma to recruit adaptive immune cells. This antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) of tumor cells is utilized in the treatment of various cancers overexpressing unique antigens, such as neuroblastoma, breast cancer, B cell lymphoma, and others. NK cells also express a family of receptors called killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), which regulate the function and response of NK cells toward target cells through their interaction with their cognate ligands that are expressed on tumor cells. Genetic polymorphisms in KIR and KIR-ligands, as well as FcγRs may influence NK cell responsiveness in conjunction with mAb immunotherapies. This review focuses on current therapeutic mAbs, different strategies to augment the anti-tumor efficacy of ADCC, and genotypic factors that may influence patient responses to antibody-dependent immunotherapies.
Keywords: antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity; cancer; immunotherapy; natural killer cell; therapeutic monoclonal antibody.