Immunotherapy, a new approach that uses immune cells to attack cancer, has become popular in cancer treatment. In immunotherapy, immune cells are boosted for effective response against cancer. A type of immune cells with significant potential for use in immunotherapy is the natural killer (NK) cell.
Natural killer (NK) cells are important innate immune cells that provide the first-line defence against cancer cells. NK cells are closely related to cancer development.
In cancer patients, their number and activity of NK cells has been shown to be generally suppressed. Therefore, many studies have been conducted to develop cancer treatment strategies based on increasing the number of NK cells and enhancing NK cell activity.
Owing to their immunosurveillance ability, NK cells show great potential for treating cancers. NK cells are able to recognise and rapidly attack cancer cells without the need of prior sensitization. As innate cytotoxic immune cells, they have the capacity to kill abnormal cells before more specific immunity develops.
NK cells can directly lyse tumour cells by releasing cytotoxic granules, following the engagement of inhibitory and activating receptors. NK effector functions take place when activating signals overcome inhibitory ones (Cooper M. et al 2001).
Various strategies are being employed to enhance anti-cancer function of NK cells via cytokines and blocking antibodies. The therapeutic effects of NK cell therapy alone or in combination with other agents have been widely demonstrated in multiple clinical trials, and further preclinical studies are underway. It is reasonable to believe that NK cell therapy is an emergent project and a promising solution for immunotherapy.
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1. Du, N., Guo, F., Wang, Y., & Cui, J. NK Cell Therapy: A Rising Star in Cancer Treatment. Cancers (2021) 13(16):4129. doi.org/10.3390/cancers13164129