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CD2 molecule triggers cancer recognition in natural killer cells

A study coordinated by the Malmberg Laboratory at Oslo University Hospital/University of Oslo and the Karolinska Institute, published in Cell Reports, reveals a molecule that trigger cancer recognition in natural killer (NK) cells. The study defines an important role for CD2 in stimulating NK cell responses to therapeutic antibodies. The findings pave the way for improving antibody-based cancer immunotherapy and to develop new cell therapy against cancer based on the cytotoxic potential of NK cells.

NK cells are cytotoxic lymphocytes with a potent ability to kill cancer cells. In this large collaborative study, we found that the co-stimulatory molecule CD2 is critical for the functional responses of a particularly potent subset of NK cells termed adaptive NK cells. In adaptive NK cells, ligation of CD2 boosted the signaling pathways downstream of two key activating receptors expressed by NK cells. The observed synergy between CD2 and other activating receptors in adaptive NK cells may provide a target for boosting NK cell function in treatments against cancer.

The study is a collaboration between Scientists from Cambridge University, Karolinska Institute, Deutsches Rheuma Forschungszentrum (DRFZ) and the KG Jebsen Center for Cancer Immunotherapy in Oslo.

“We are currently exploring these new biological insights in the design of a protocol for the next generation cell therapy against cancer”, states co-senior author of the study, Karl-Johan Malmberg.