A pan-cancer single-cell panorama of human natural killer cells

Cell. 2023 Sep 14;186(19):4235-4251.e20. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.07.034. Epub 2023 Aug 21.


Natural killer (NK) cells play indispensable roles in innate immune responses against tumor progression. To depict their phenotypic and functional diversities in the tumor microenvironment, we perform integrative single-cell RNA sequencing analyses on NK cells from 716 patients with cancer, covering 24 cancer types. We observed heterogeneity in NK cell composition in a tumor-type-specific manner. Notably, we have identified a group of tumor-associated NK cells that are enriched in tumors, show impaired anti-tumor functions, and are associated with unfavorable prognosis and resistance to immunotherapy. Specific myeloid cell subpopulations, in particular LAMP3+ dendritic cells, appear to mediate the regulation of NK cell anti-tumor immunity. Our study provides insights into NK-cell-based cancer immunity and highlights potential clinical utilities of NK cell subsets as therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunotherapy
  • Killer Cells, Natural* / immunology
  • Myeloid Cells
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Single-Cell Gene Expression Analysis
  • Tumor Microenvironment*