Natural killer (NK) cell-based immunotherapy is a promising novel approach to treat cancer. However, NK cell function has been shown to be potentially diminished by factors common in the tumor microenvironment (TME). In this study, we assessed the synergistic potential of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) and killer immunoglobin-like receptor (KIR)-ligand mismatched NK cells to potentiate NK cell antitumor reactivity in multiple myeloma (MM). Hypoxia, lactate, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) or combinations were selected to mimic the TME. To investigate this, NK cells from healthy donors were isolated and NK cell ADCC capacity in response to MM cells was assessed in flow cytometry-based cytotoxicity and degranulation (CD107a) assays in the presence of TME factors. Hypoxia, lactate and PGE2 reduced cytotoxicity of NK cells against myeloma target cells. The addition of daratumumab (anti-CD38 antibody) augmented NK-cell cytotoxicity against target cells expressing high CD38, but not against CD38 low or negative target cells also in the presence of TME. Co-staining for inhibitory KIRs and NKG2A demonstrated that daratumumab enhanced degranulation of all NK cell subsets. Nevertheless, KIR-ligand mismatched NK cells were slightly better effector cells than KIR-ligand matched NK cells. In summary, our study shows that combination therapy using strategies to maximize activating NK cell signaling by triggering ADCC in combination with an approach to minimize inhibitory signaling through a selection of KIR-ligand mismatched donors, can help to overcome the NK-suppressive TME. This can serve as a platform to improve the clinical efficacy of NK cells.
Keywords: ADCC; Alloreactive NK cells; Daratumumab; Multiple myeloma; Tumor microenvironment.