Although T cells have commanded most of the attention in the burgeoning immuno-oncology field, there is a growing appreciation that other immune cells have important roles in tumor surveillance and would represent attractive therapeutic targets.
While the path to regulatory approval for this drug class is not wrinkle free, recent data suggest a potentially significant role for this treatment paradigm in rational combinations of immunotherapy and targeted therapy that capitalize on their unique mechanism of action.
Natural Born Killers
First discovered more than 40 years ago, the NK cells are called "natural killers" because of their ability to rapidly kill target cells without having to be primed first, for example, by exposure to an antigen, as is necessary for T cells.
Studies have now shown that NK cells play an important role in the antitumor immune response, but tumors also appear to have evolved mechanisms of overcoming NK cell–mediated immune surveillance. Depletion of NK cells or impaired NK cell function has been noted in various cancer types.
KIRs Play Dual Immune System Roles
One of the central receptor families involved in NK-cell activation is the KIRs, encoded by a group of 15 functional and 2 pseudogenes found within a section of chromosome 19 known as the leukocyte receptor complex.
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