Activated Natural Killer Cells Withstand the Relatively Low Glucose Concentrations Found in the Bone Marrow of Multiple Myeloma Patients

F.A.I. Ehlers, N.M. Mahaweni, T.I. Olieslagers, G.M.J. Bos, L. Wieten*

*Corresponding author for this work

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2 Citations (Web of Science)


Infusion of ex vivo expanded and cytokine-activated natural killer (NK) cells is a promising alternative way to treat multiple myeloma (MM). However, the tumor microenvironment (TME) may suppress their function. While reduced glucose availability is a TME hallmark of many solid tumors, glucose levels within the TME of hematological malignancies residing in the bone marrow (BM) remain unknown. Here, we measured glucose levels in the BM of MM patients and tested the effect of different glucose levels on NK cells. BM glucose levels were measured using a biochemical analyzer. Compared to the normal range of blood glucose, BM glucose levels were lower in 6 of 9 patients (479-1231 mg/L; mean=731.8 mg/L). The effect of different glucose levels on NK cell cytotoxicity was tested in 4-hour cytotoxicity assays with tumor cells. 500 mg/L glucose (representing low range of MM BM) during the 4-hour cytotoxicity assay did not negatively affect cytotoxicity of activated NK cells, while higher glucose concentrations (4000 mg/L) diminished NK cell cytotoxicity. Since clinical application of NK cell therapy might require ex vivo expansion, expanded NK cells were exposed to a range of glucose concentrations from 500-4000 mg/L for a longer period (4 days). This did not reduce cytotoxicity or IFN-gamma secretion nor affected their phenotypic profile. In summary, low glucose concentrations, as found in BM of MM patients, by itself did not compromise the anti-tumor potential of IL-2 activated NK cells in vitro. Although follow up studies in models with a more complex TME would be relevant, our data suggest that highly activated NK cells could be used to target tumors with a reduced glucose environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number622896
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021


  • NK cells
  • multiple myeloma
  • immunotherapy
  • tumor microenvironment
  • glucose

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