Over the past 20 years natural killer (NK) cell-based immunotherapies have emerged as a safe and effective treatment option for patients with relapsed or refractory leukemia. Unlike T cell-based therapies, NK cells harbor an innate capacity to eliminate malignant cells without prior sensitization and can be adoptively transferred between individuals without the need for extensive HLA matching. A wide variety of therapeutic NK cell sources are currently being investigated clinically, including allogeneic donor-derived NK cells, stem cell-derived NK cells and NK cell lines. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that not all NK cells are endowed with the same antitumor potential. Despite advances in techniques to enhance NK cell cytotoxicity and persistence, the initial identification and utilization of highly functional NK cells remains essential to ensure the future success of adoptive NK cell therapies. Indeed, little consideration has been given to the identification and selection of donors who harbor NK cells with potent antitumor activity. In this regard, there is currently no standard donor selection criteria for adoptive NK cell therapy. Here, we review our current understanding of the factors which govern NK cell functional fate, and propose a paradigm shift away from traditional phenotypic characterization of NK cell subsets towards a functional profile based on molecular and metabolic characteristics. We also discuss previous selection models for NK cell-based immunotherapies and highlight important considerations for the selection of optimal NK cell donors for future adoptive cell therapies.
|Journal||Frontiers in Immunology|
|Publication status||Published - 27 Oct 2021|