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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2011, Article ID 676198, 11 pages
Review Article

Natural Killer Cells in Human Cancer: From Biological Functions to Clinical Applications

1Centro de Investigaciones Oncológicas, Fundación Cáncer e Instituto Alexander Fleming, Cramer 1180, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires C1426ANZ, Argentina
2IIBBA-CONICET, Fundación Instituto Leloir, Avendia Patricias Argentinas 435, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires C1405BWE, Argentina

Received 29 December 2010; Accepted 25 February 2011

Academic Editor: Roberto Biassoni

Copyright © 2011 Estrella Mariel Levy et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Natural killer (NK) cells are central components of the innate immunity. In murine models, it has been shown that NK cells can control both local tumor growth and metastasis due to their ability to exert direct cellular cytotoxicity without prior sensitization and to secrete immunostimulatory cytokines like IFN- . The latter participates in cancer elimination by inhibiting cellular proliferation and angiogenesis, promoting apoptosis, and stimulating the adaptive immune system, and it is instrumental for enhancing Ag processing and presentation. Nevertheless, NK cells display impaired functionality and capability to infiltrate tumors in cancer patients. Also, NK cells are feasible targets of stimulation to participate in immunotherapeutic approaches like antibody-based strategies and adoptive cell transfer. Thus, multiple attempts currently aim to manipulate NK for utilization in the immunotherapy of cancer.