by Rasa Islam,Aleta Pupovac, Vera Evtimov, Nicholas Boyd, Runzhe Shu, Richard Boyd and Alan Trounson
Published – April 2021
Enhancing a Natural Killer: Modification of NK Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy
Natural killer (NK) cells are potent innate immune system effector lymphocytes armed with multiple mechanisms for killing cancer cells. Given the dynamic roles of NK cells in tumor surveillance, they are fast becoming a next-generation tool for adoptive immunotherapy. Many strategies are being employed to increase their number and improve their ability to overcome cancer resistance and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. These include the use of cytokines and synthetic compounds to bolster propagation and killing capacity, targeting immune-function checkpoints, addition of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to provide cancer specificity and genetic ablation of inhibitory molecules. The next generation of NK cell products will ideally be readily available as an “off-the-shelf” product and stem cell derived to enable potentially unlimited supply. However, several considerations regarding NK cell source, genetic modification and scale up first need addressing. Understanding NK cell biology and interaction within specific tumor contexts will help identify necessary NK cell modifications and relevant choice of NK cell source. Further enhancement of manufacturing processes will allow for off-the-shelf NK cell immunotherapies to become key components of multifaceted therapeutic strategies for cancer.
Keywords: natural killer (NK) cells; pluripotent stem cells; allogeneic immunotherapy; cancer
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