Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Coverage from Every Angle

Update on Antitumor Activity of Natural Killer Cells in CML

By: Susan Reckling
Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2019

Although natural killer cells have been shown to be active against myeloid malignancies, including chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), disease-associated mechanisms often interfere with their proper function; as a result, tumor control may be inadequate and disease progression may occur. In a review article published in Frontiers in Immunology, Swedish researchers explored these interfering mechanisms and strategies for restoring the full antitumor potential of natural killer cells.

“We need to better understand what factors cause tumor evasion from natural killer cells and identify drugs that prevent or neutralize them,” stated Mattias Carlsten, MD, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and Marcus Järås, PhD, of Lund University. “We need to identify therapies that not only activate the natural killer cells [in the] short term and potentially exhaust them, but more importantly to develop drugs or approaches/protocols that stimulate the natural killer cells for enhanced tumor immune surveillance long term.”

The coauthors offered an overview of the natural killer cell, “discovered in the mid-1970s based on its ability to lyse certain tumor cells without prior sensitization of the host.” They also first discussed their key functions in the immune system followed by their role in tumor immune surveillance. The primary focus of their review centered on our current understanding of how natural killer cells can be used to target malignant myeloid cells and prevent their growth in malignancies such as CML, as well some of the clinical trial data behind this therapeutic strategy (eg, antibody-based therapies, small-molecule drugs, cytokines, and checkpoint inhibitors).

“We strongly believe that new, unique opportunities to better utilize natural killer cells to induce long-term remissions in patients with myeloid malignancies will be a reality in the near future,” the coauthors concluded.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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