Characterization and potential applications of dog natural killer cells in cancer immunotherapy

Alicia A. Gingrich, Jaime F. Modiano, Robert J. Canter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells of the innate immune system are a key focus of research within the field of immuno-oncology based on their ability to recognize and eliminate malignant cells without prior sensitization or priming. However, barriers have arisen in the effective translation of NK cells to the clinic, in part because of critical species differences between mice and humans. Companion animals, especially dogs, are valuable species for overcoming many of these barriers, as dogs develop spontaneous tumors in the setting of an intact immune system, and the genetic and epigenetic factors that underlie oncogenesis appear to be similar between dogs and humans. Here, we summarize the current state of knowledge for dog NK cells, including cell surface marker phenotype, key NK genes and genetic regulation, similarities and differences of dog NK cells to other mammals, especially human and mouse, expression of canonical inhibitory and activating receptors, ex vivo expansion techniques, and current and future clinical applications. While dog NK cells are not as well described as those in humans and mice, the knowledge of the field is increasing and clinical applications in dogs can potentially advance the field of human NK biology and therapy. Better characterization is needed to truly understand the similarities and differences of dog NK cells with mouse and human. This will allow for the canine model to speed clinical translation of NK immunotherapy studies and overcome key barriers in the optimization of NK cancer immunotherapy, including trafficking, longevity, and maximal in vivo support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1802
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cancer
  • Canine
  • Immunotherapy
  • Natural killer cell
  • Translational research


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