Adoptive transfer of autologous natural killer cells leads to high levels of circulating natural killer cells but does not mediate tumor regression

Maria R. Parkhurst, John P. Riley, Mark E. Dudley, Steven A. Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Scopus citations


Purpose: Adoptive transfer of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) can mediate regression of metastatic melanoma. However, many patients with cancer are ineligible for such treatment because their TIL do not expand sufficiently or because their tumors have lost expression of antigens and/or MHC molecules. Natural killer (NK) cells are large granular lymphocytes that lyse tumor cells in a non-MHC-restricted manner. Therefore, we initiated in a clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of adoptively transferred autologous NK cells to treat patients with cancers who were ineligible for treatment with TIL. Experimental Design: Patients with metastatic melanoma or renal cell carcinoma were treated with adoptively transferred in vitro activated autologous NK cells after the patients received a lymphodepleting but nonmyeloablative chemotherapy regimen. Clinical responses and persistence of the adoptively transferred cells were evaluated. Results: Eight patients were treated with an average of 4.7 × 10 10 (± 2.1 × 10 10) NK cells. The infused cells exhibited high levels of lytic activity in vitro. Although no clinical responses were observed, the adoptively transferred NK cells seemed to persist in the peripheral circulation of patients for at least one week posttransfer and, in some patients, for several months. However, the persistent NK cells in the circulation expressed significantly lower levels of the key activating receptor NKG2D and could not lyse tumor cell targets in vitro unless reactivated with IL-2. Conclusions: The persistent NK cells could mediate antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity without cytokine reactivation in vitro, which suggests that coupling adoptive NK cell transfer with monoclonal antibody administration deserves evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6287-6297
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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