NYMC Faculty Publications

Genetic and Epigenetic Modification of Human Primary NK Cells for Enhanced Antitumor Activity

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Seminars in Hematology

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Second Department

Health Behavior and Community Health


Cancer immunotherapy using genetically modified immune cells such as those expressing chimeric antigen receptors has shown dramatic outcomes in patients with refractory and relapsed malignancies. Natural killer (NK) cells as a member of the innate immune system, possessing both anticancer (cytotoxic) and proinflammatory (cytokine) responses to cancers and rare off-target toxicities have great potential for a wide range of cancer therapeutic settings. Therefore, improving NK cell antitumor activity through genetic modification is of high interest in the field of cancer immunotherapy. However, gene manipulation in primary NK cells has been challenging because of broad resistance to many genetic modification methods that work well in T cells. Here we review recent successful approaches for genetic and epigenetic modification of NK cells including epigenetic remodeling, transposons, mRNA-mediated gene delivery, lentiviruses, and CRISPR gene targeting.

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