Innate lymphoid cells and innate-like T cells in cancer - at the crossroads of innate and adaptive immunity

Nat Rev Cancer. 2023 Jun;23(6):351-371. doi: 10.1038/s41568-023-00562-w. Epub 2023 Apr 20.


Immunotherapies targeting conventional T cells have revolutionized systemic treatment for many cancers, yet only a subset of patients benefit from these approaches. A better understanding of the complex immune microenvironment of tumours is needed to design the next generation of immunotherapeutics. Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) and innate-like T cells (ILTCs) are abundant, tissue-resident lymphocytes that have recently been shown to have critical roles in many types of cancers. ILCs and ILTCs rapidly respond to changes in their surrounding environment and act as the first responders to bridge innate and adaptive immunity. This places ILCs and ILTCs as pivotal orchestrators of the final antitumour immune response. In this Review, we outline hallmarks of ILCs and ILTCs and discuss their emerging role in antitumour immunity, as well as the pathophysiological adaptations leading to their pro-tumorigenic function. We explore the pleiotropic, in parts redundant and sometimes opposing, mechanisms that underlie the delicate interplay between the different subsets of ILCs and ILTCs. Finally, we highlight their role in amplifying and complementing conventional T cell functions and summarize immunotherapeutic strategies for targeting ILCs and ILTCs in cancer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lymphocytes*
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Tumor Microenvironment