Natural killer (NK) cells have long been known to mediate anti-tumor responses without prior sensitization or recognition of specific tumor antigens. However, the tumor microenvironment can suppress NK cell function resulting in tumor escape and disease progression. Despite recent advances in cytokine therapy and NK cell adoptive transfer, tumor expression of ligands to NK – expressed checkpoint receptors can still suppress NK mediated tumor lysis. This review will explore many of the checkpoint receptors tumors utilize to manipulate the NK cell response as well as some of the current and upcoming pharmacological solutions to limit tumor suppression of NK cell function. Furthermore, we will discuss the potential to use these drugs in combinational therapies with novel antibody reagents such as bi- and tri-specific killer engagers (BiKEs and TriKEs) against tumor-specific antigens to enhance NK cell-mediated tumor rejection.
- Natural killer cells