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, 36 (4), 329-347

Genetically Engineered Natural Killer Cells as a Means for Adoptive Tumor Immunotherapy


Genetically Engineered Natural Killer Cells as a Means for Adoptive Tumor Immunotherapy

Susanne Michen et al. Crit Rev Immunol.


Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphoid cells of the innate immune system; they stand at the first defense line against viruses and transformed cells. NK cells use an array of germline-encoded activating and inhibitory receptors that sense virus-infected cells or malignant cells displaying altered surface expression of activating and inhibitory NK cell ligands. They exert potent cytotoxic responses to cellular targets and thus are candidate effector cells for immunotherapy of cancer. In particular, the genetic engineering of NK cells with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) against surface-expressed tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) seems promising. In the allogeneic context, gene-modified NK cells compared to T cells may be superior because they are short-lived effector cells and do not cause graft-versus-host disease. Furthermore, their anti-tumoral activity can be augmented by combinatorial use with therapeutic antibodies, chemotherapeutics, and radiation. Today, efforts are being undertaken for large-scale NK-cell expansion and their genetic engineering for adoptive cell transfer. With the recent advances in understanding the complex biological interactions that regulate NK cells, it is expected that the genetic engineering of NK cells and a combinatorial blockade of immune evasion mechanisms are required to exploit the full potential of NK-cell-based immunotherapies.

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