L. Moretta, F. Locatelli, D. Pende
Feb 1, 2010
Natural killer (NK) cells, a major cell type of the innate immunity, express surface receptors that regulate potent effector functions such as cytolytic activity and release of cytokines playing a central role in inflammatory response and immunoregulation. In this contribution, we briefly outline the major steps from the discovery of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-class I-specific inhibitory receptors in humans to recent successful clinical applications in the cure of high-risk leukemias both in adults and in pediatric patients. A central role is played by 'alloreactive' NK cells originated from donor's CD 34(+) cells in eradicating leukemic cells in the setting of T-cell-depleted haploidentical hemopoietic stem cell transplantation. Because alloreactive NK cells play a central role also in preventing graft rejection and graft-vs-host disease, they may represent an ideal tool to treat patients affected by acute high-risk leukemias.