Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified natural killer cell-based immunotherapy and immunological synapse formation in cancer and HIV

Dongfang Liu, Shuo Tian, Kai Zhang, Wei Xiong, Ndongala Michel Lubaki, Zhiying Chen, Weidong Han

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and natural killer (NK) cells contribute to the body’s immune defenses. Current chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cell immunotherapy shows strong promise for treating various cancers and infectious diseases. Although CAR-modified NK cell immunotherapy is rapidly gaining attention, its clinical applications are mainly focused on preclinical investigations using the NK92 cell line. Despite recent advances in CAR-modified T cell immunotherapy, cost and severe toxicity have hindered its widespread use. To alleviate these disadvantages of CAR-modified T cell immunotherapy, additional cytotoxic cell-mediated immunotherapies are urgently needed. The unique biology of NK cells allows them to serve as a safe, effective, alternative immunotherapeutic strategy to CAR-modified T cells in the clinic. While the fundamental mechanisms underlying the cytotoxicity and side effects of CAR-modified T and NK cell immunotherapies remain poorly understood, the formation of the immunological synapse (IS) between CAR-modified T or NK cells and their susceptible target cells is known to be essential. The role of the IS in CAR T and NK cell immunotherapies will allow scientists to harness the power of CAR-modified T and NK cells to treat cancer and infectious diseases. In this review, we highlight the potential applications of CAR-modified NK cells to treat cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and discuss the challenges and possible future directions of CAR-modified NK cell immunotherapy, as well as the importance of understanding the molecular mechanisms of CAR-modified T cell- or NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity and side effects, with a focus on the CAR-modified NK cell IS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-877
Number of pages17
JournalProtein and Cell
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • cancer
  • chimeric antigen receptor
  • immunological synapse
  • immunotherapy
  • natural killer cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Drug Discovery
  • Cell Biology


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