Natural killer (NK) cells are cytotoxic innate lymphoid cells that protect the host from infection and mediate anti-tumor responses. Classically considered part of the innate immune system, NK cells were previously thought to not possess the specificity or enhanced recall responses associated with adaptive T and B lymphocytes. However, a large body of work has transformed these long-held divisions between innate and adaptive immunity; NK cell memory and memory-like responses are clearly established after hapten exposure, viral infection, and combined cytokine activation. These advances come with opportunities to translate innate NK cell recall responses into the clinic as cancer immunotherapy. Here, we review our current understanding of the heterogeneity of memory and memory-like NK cell responses, with distinct formation, molecular biology, and memory type functions. We elaborate on cytokine-induced memory-like NK cells and highlight their application as adoptive immunotherapy for cancer, and as a platform for engineering optimal NK cell anti-tumor responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalSeminars in Hematology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Cytokine
  • Cytokine receptor
  • Cytokine-induced memory-like
  • Innate memory
  • Natural killer cell


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