Natural killer cell engineering for cellular therapy of cancer

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Natural killer (NK) cells can kill transformed cells and represent a promising tool for the treatment of cancer. Their function is governed by a balance of stimulatory and inhibitory signals triggered by surface receptors. Advances in NK cell therapy require the development of dependable methods for obtaining an adequate number of effector cells; additional activation or genetic modification may further increase their anticancer capacity. A method for NK cell expansion used in our laboratory relies on a genetically modified form of the K562 myeloid leukemia cell line, engineered to express a membrane-bound form of interleukin-15 and the ligand for the costimulatory molecule 4-1BB (CD137). Expanded NK cells can be transduced with genes encoding chimeric antigen receptors that stimulate tumor cell-specific cytotoxicity. These methods for NK cell expansion and genetic modification have been adapted to large-scale, clinical-grade, Current Good Manufacturing Practice conditions and support two active clinical trials. Summarized are current efforts for NK cell immunotherapy for cancer and future perspectives.

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