Historically, the name of natural killer (NK) cells came from their natural ability to kill tumor cells in vitro. From the 1970s to date, accumulating data highlighted the importance of NK cells in host immune response against cancer and in therapy-induced antitumor response. The recognition and the lysis of tumor cells by NK cells are regulated by a complex balance of inhibitory and activating signals. This review summarizes NK cell mechanisms to kill cancer cells, their role in host immune responses against tumor growth or metastasis, and their implications in antitumor immunotherapies via cytokines, antibodies, or in combination with other therapies. The regulatory role of NK cells in autoimmunity is also discussed.
Keywords: natural killer, tumor, cytotoxicity, natural cytotoxicity receptor