Natural Killer cells belong to group 1 innate lymphoid cells, which also includes ILC1s. NK/ILC1s are highly heterogeneous cell types showing distinct phenotypes across tissues and conditions. NK cells have long been described as innate lymphocytes able to directly and rapidly kill tumor cells without antigen-restriction. Different mechanisms were shown to modulate NK cell activation and tumor resistance, mainly based on cytokine stimulation and receptor–ligand inter-actions, and several strategies have been developed to target NK cells in tumor immunotherapy to promote NK cell function and overcome tumor evasion. The characterization of ILC1 distinct phenotype and function and the specific role in tumors still needs further investigation and will be essential to better understand the impact of innate lymphoid cells in tumors. Here, we review key aspects of NK cell biology that are relevant in tumor immune surveillance, emphasizing the most recent findings in the field. We describe the novel therapeutical strategies that have been developed in tumor immunotherapy targeting NK cells, and we summarize some recent findings related to NK cell/ILC1 transition in tumor models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number595
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • Cancer
  • Cancer therapy
  • ILC1
  • Innate lymphoid cells
  • NK cells


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