Inhibitory checkpoints in human natural killer cells: IUPHAR Review 28

Br J Pharmacol. 2020 Jul;177(13):2889-2903. doi: 10.1111/bph.15081. Epub 2020 May 18.


Immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized cancer therapy leading to exceptional success. However, there is still the need to improve their efficacy in non-responder patients. Natural killer (NK) cells represent the first line of defence against tumours, due to their ability to release immunomodulatory cytokines and kill target cells that have undergone malignant transformation. Harnessing NK cell response will open new possibilities to improve control of tumour growth. In this respect inhibitory checkpoints expressed on these innate lymphocytes represents a promising target for next-generation immunotherapy. In this review, we will summarize recent evidences on the expression of NK cells receptors in cancer, with a focus on the inhibitory checkpoint programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1). We will also highlight the strength and limitations of the blockade of PD-1 inhibitory pathway and suggest new combination strategies that may help to unleash more efficiently NK cell anti-tumour response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Killer Cells, Natural*
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy