NK Cells for Cancer

Autologous NK Cell Therapy for the Treatment of Cancer

Cancer Treatment with NK Cells

Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells) are lymphocytes in the same family as T and B cells, coming from a common progenitor. However, as cells of the innate immune system, NK cells are classified as group I Innate Lymphocytes (ILCs) and respond quickly to a wide variety of pathological challenges. NK cells are best known for killing virally infected cells, and detecting and controlling early signs of cancer. As well as protecting against disease, specialized NK cells are also found in the placenta and may play an important role in pregnancy. 

NK cells were first noticed for their ability to kill tumour cells without any priming or prior activation (in contrast to cytotoxic T cells, which need priming by antigen presenting cells). They are named for this ‘natural’ killing. Additionally, NK cells secrete cytokines such as IFNγ and TNFα, which act on other immune cells like Macrophage and Dendritic cells to enhance the immune response.

How Do NK Cells Target Cancer Cells


While on patrol NK cells constantly contact other cells. Whether or not the NK cell kills these cells depends on a balance of signals from activating receptors and inhibitory receptors on the NK cell surface. Activating receptors recognise molecules that are expressed on the surface of cancer cells and infected cells, and ‘switch on’ the NK cell. Inhibitory receptors act as a check on NK cell killing. Most normal healthy cells express MHC I receptors which mark these cells as ‘self’. Inhibitory receptors on the surface of the NK cell recognise cognate MHC I, and this ‘switches off’ the NK cell, preventing it from killing.

Cancer cells and infected cells often lose their MHC I, leaving them vulnerable to NK cell killing. Once the decision is made to kill, the NK cell releases cytotoxic granules containing perforin and granzymes, which leads to lysis of the target cell.

 NK21 – NK Cells for Cancer


At ImmuneCells21 we produce the NK21 – Natural Killer Cells for Cancer. The protocol we have developed produces 2 infusions of cytotoxic killer cells per blood collection (100ml). The NK cells are culture and released for therapeutic use on day 18 & day 21. In a full cancer treatment program we will perform 3 blood collections (weekly) & NK cultures, giving a total of 6 cytotoxic killer cell infusions on days: 

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