Role of natural killer cells in lung cancer

  • Ozge Nur Aktaş
  • Ayşe Bilge Öztürk
  • Baran Erman
  • Suat Erus
  • Serhan Tanju
  • Şükrü Dilege
Review – Cancer Research



One of the key immune cells involved in the pathogenesis of lung cancer is natural killer (NK) cells and these cells are novel targets for therapeutic applications in lung cancer. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current literature on lung cancer pathogenesis with a focus on the interaction between NK cells and smoking, how these factors are related to the pathogenesis of lung cancer and how NK cell-based immunotherapy effect lung cancer survival.


The relevant literature from PubMed and Medline databases is reviewed in this article.


The cytolytic potential of NK cells are reduced in lung cancer and increasing evidence suggests that improving NK cell functioning may induce tumor regression. Recent clinical trials on NK cell-based novel therapies such as cytokines including interleukin (IL)-15, IL-12 and IL-2, NK-92 cell lines and allogenic NK cell immunotherapy showed promising results with less adverse effects on the lung cancer survival.


The NK cell targeting strategy has not yet been approved for lung cancer treatment. More clinical studies focusing on the role of NK cells in lung cancer pathogenesis are warranted to develop novel NK cell-based therapeutic approaches for the treatment of lung cancer.


Immunotherapy Lung cancer Natural killer cells Non-small cell lung cancer Small cell lung cancer 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Feinberg School of Medicine, Center for Community HealthNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Allergy and ImmunologyKoç University HospitalIstanbulTurkey
  3. 3.Koç University, School of MedicineTranslational Medicine Research CenterIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Department of Thoracic SurgeryKoç University HospitalIstanbulTurkey

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