123 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells are a promising cellular immunotherapy for cancer. Cytokine-induced memory-like (ML) NK cells differentiate after activation with interleukin-12 (IL-12), IL-15, and IL-18, exhibit potent antitumor responses, and safely induce complete remissions in patients with leukemia. However, many cancers are not fully recognized via NK cell receptors. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) have been used to enhance tumor-specific recognition by effector lymphocytes. We hypothesized that ML differentiation and CAR engineering would result in complementary improvements in NK cell responses against NK-resistant cancers. To test this idea, peripheral blood ML NK cells were modified to express an anti-CD19 CAR (19-CAR-ML), which displayed significantly increased interferon γ production, degranulation, and specific killing against NK-resistant lymphoma lines and primary targets compared with nonspecific control CAR-ML NK cells or conventional CAR NK cells. The 19-CAR and ML responses were synergistic and CAR specific and required immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif signaling. Furthermore, 19-CAR-ML NK cells generated from lymphoma patients exhibited improved responses against their autologous lymphomas. 19-CAR-ML NK cells controlled lymphoma burden in vivo and improved survival in human xenograft models. Thus, CAR engineering of ML NK cells enhanced responses against resistant cancers and warrants further investigation, with the potential to broaden ML NK cell recognition against a variety of NK cell-resistant tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2308-2318
Number of pages11
Issue number20
StatePublished - Nov 12 2020


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