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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012, Article ID 720803, 11 pages
Review Article

Invariant NKT Cells as Novel Targets for Immunotherapy in Solid Tumors

Department of Pathology, NYU School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, MSB-521, New York, NY 10016, USA

Received 11 July 2012; Revised 2 September 2012; Accepted 2 September 2012

Academic Editor: T. Nakayama

Copyright © 2012 Karsten A. Pilones 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 T (NKT) cells are a small population of lymphocytes that possess characteristics of both innate and adaptive immune cells. They are uniquely poised to respond rapidly to infection and inflammation and produce cytokines that critically shape the ensuing adaptive cellular response. Therefore, they represent promising therapeutic targets. In cancer, NKT cells are attributed a role in immunosurveillance. NKT cells also act as potent activators of antitumor immunity when stimulated with a synthetic agonist in experimental models. However, in some settings, NKT cells seem to act as suppressors and regulators of antitumor immunity. Here we briefly review current data supporting these paradoxical roles of NKT cells and their regulation. Increased understanding of the signals that determine the function of NKT cells in cancer will be essential to improve current strategies for NKT-cell-based immunotherapeutic approaches.