High-efficiency lysis of cervical cancer by allogeneic NK cells derived from umbilical cord progenitors is independent of HLA status

John P. Veluchamy, A. Marijne Heeren, Jan Spanholtz, Jaap D. H. van Eendenburg, Daniëlle A. M. Heideman, Gemma G. Kenter, Henk M. Verheul, Hans J. van der Vliet, Ekaterina S. Jordanova, Tanja D. de Gruijl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Down-regulation of HLA in tumor cells, low numbers and dysfunctionality of NK cells are commonly observed in patients with end-stage cervical cancer. Adoptive transfer of high numbers of cytotoxic NK cells might be a promising treatment approach in this setting. Here, we explored the cytotoxic efficacy on ten cervical cancer cell lines of activated allogeneic NK cells from two sources, i.e., peripheral blood (PBNK) with and without cetuximab (CET), a tumor-specific monoclonal antibody directed against EGFR, or derived from umbilical cord blood (UCB-NK). Whereas CET monotherapy was ineffective against the panel of cervical cancer cell lines, irrespective of their EGFR expression levels and despite their RAS (wt) status, it significantly enhanced the in vitro cytotoxic efficacy of activated PBNK (P = 0.002). Equally superior cytotoxicity over activated PBNK alone was achieved by UCB-NK (P <0.001). Both PBNK- and UCB-NK-mediated cytotoxic activity was dependent on the NK-activating receptors natural killer group 2, member D receptor (NKG2D) and DNAX accessory molecule-1 (DNAM-1) (P <0.05) and unrelated to expression levels of the inhibitory receptors HLA-E and/or HLA-G. Most strikingly, whereas the PBNK's cytotoxic activity was inversely correlated with HLA-ABC levels (P = 0.036), PBNK + CET and UCB-NK cytotoxicity were entirely independent of HLA-ABC expression. In conclusion, this study provides a rationale to initiate a clinical trial for cervical cancer with adoptively transferred allogeneic NK cells, employing either UCB-NK or PBNK + CET for EGFR-expressing tumors. Adoptive transfer of UCB-NK might serve as a generally applicable treatment for cervical cancer, enabled by HLA-, histology- and HPV-independent killing mechanisms
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-61
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number1
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Cite this