Discovery of NKT cells and development of NKT cell-targeted anti-tumor immunotherapy

Masaru Taniguchi, Michishige Harada, Nyambayar Dashtsoodol, Satoshi Kojo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Natural Killer T (NKT) cells are unique lymphocytes characterized by their expression of a single invariant antigen receptor encoded by Vα14Jα18 in mice and Vα24Jα18 in humans, which recognizes glycolipid antigens in association with the monomorphic CD1d molecule. NKT cells mediate adjuvant activity to activate both CD8T cells to kill MHC-positive tumor cells and NK cells to eliminate MHC-negative tumor at the same time in patients, resulting in the complete eradication of tumors without relapse. Therefore, the NKT cell-targeted therapy can be applied to any type of tumor and also to anyone individual, regardless of HLA type. Phase IIa clinical trials on advanced lung cancers and head and neck tumors have been completed and showed significantly prolonged median survival times with only the primary treatment. Another potential treatment option for the future is to use induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS)-derived NKT cells, which induced adjuvant effects on anti-tumor responses, inhibiting in vivo tumor growth in a mouse model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-304
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of the Japan Academy Series B: Physical and Biological Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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