Natural killer T (NKT) cells and their role in antitumor immunity

Randy R. Brutkiewicz, Venkataraman Sriram

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Natural killer T (NKT) cells have become a major focus for those who study the innate immune response to tumors and infectious diseases, as well as autoimmunity. These novel T lymphocytes produce both Th1 and Th2 cytokines, recognize phospholipid and glycolipid antigens presented by CD1 molecules in a similar manner as peptides are recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), and kill tumor cell targets by a perforin-dependent mechanism like NK cells and CTL. These ascribed functions thus demonstrate that NKT cells are a unique cytotoxic effector cell subpopulation with a kaleidoscope of activities. Because they can mediate antitumor effects in vivo with or without the collaboration of NK cells, the study of NKT cells in antitumor immunity may lead to novel treatments based on the ability to manipulate the generation and/or activity of these multifunctional lymphocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 19 2002


  • Antitumor
  • CD1
  • Cytokines
  • Glycolipids
  • IL-12
  • NKT cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Hematology
  • Oncology

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