UCLA researchers in the Department of Dentistry have discovered a novel method to activate natural killer (NK) cells for applications in cancer immunotherapy.
Natural killer (NK) cells have the ability to lyse cancer stem cells and undifferentiated tumors, and are promising candidates for application in cell-based immunotherapy. However, their application has been limited due to inability to obtain sufficient numbers of highly functional NK cells. As an additional obstacle, NK cells from cancer patients have demonstrated lower expansion than that of those from healthy individuals, further raising the bar for treatment. There is a great need to identify therapeutic composition and methods for improved NK immunotherapy.
Researchers at UCLA have developed a method to activate NK cells from pancreatic cancer patients and generate large number of highly functional NK cells. This is achieved through modulation of activity and expression level of a specific surface molecule commonly expressed on immune cell subsets, but was recently discovered by the research group to play an important role in NK activity. The proposed innovation has potential to increase NK cell activity, increase IFN-y secretion by NK cells, and decrease tumor burdens in patients.