Harnessing natural killer cells for the treatment of ovarian cancer

Janneke S. Hoogstad-van Evert*, Ruud Bekkers, Nelleke Ottevanger, Joop H. Jansen, Leon Massuger, Harry Dolstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Web of Science)


Introduction. Adoptive cellular immunotherapy could be an interesting new treatment option for ovarian carcinoma (OC), as research has demonstrated that OC is an immunogenic disease. In particular, natural killer (NK) cells have attracted attention due to their ability to kill tumor cells without prior sensitization. The therapeutic value of allogeneic NK cells has been first observed in hematological cancers and is increasingly being explored in solid tumors.

Methods. To substantiate the rationale for NK cell therapy in OC we performed a literature search in the Pubmed database and in the international trial register clinicaltrials.gov with attention for the effect of OC on NK cell function, the effect of current treatment on NK cell biology and the evidence on the therapeutic value of NK cell therapy against OC.

Results. In six clinical trials only 31 OC patients have been reported that received NK cell adoptive transfer. The majority of patients reached stable disease after NK cell therapy, with a mild pattern of side effects. In patients who received repeated infusions, more complete responses are described. All reported studies investigated the intravenous infusion of NK cells. Whereas the studies that are currently recruiting, investigate intraperitoneal infusion of allogeneic NK cells.

Conclusion. In this review the pre-clinical evidence and current trials on NK cell immunotherapy in OC patients are summarized. Furthermore, challenges that have to be overcome for NK cell adoptive therapy to have a significant impact on disease outcome are discussed. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-816
Number of pages7
JournalGynecologic Oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Ovarian cancer
  • Natural killer cells
  • Immunotherapy

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