University of Minnesota Health has world leaders in natural killer (NK) therapy development. Masonic Cancer Center is the site of groundbreaking NK cell therapy research.
NK cells are the immune system’s assassins. They are produced by the body in order to target and kill abnormal and malignant cells. Our researchers have discovered how to create NK cells from stem cells, and studies are underway with the goal of improving NK therapy techniques; to make “off-the-shelf” living cells that can be given several times to extend treatments for patients with cancer.
NK cell therapy offers hope to patients with high-risk blood cancers, including several types of leukemia. For these patients, a typical course of treatment may include chemotherapy to prevent rejection of the infused NK cells, and for those patients who get a complete remission, many patients elect to undergo a potentially curative stem cell transplant (or bone marrow transplant) to lessen the chance of relapse.
NK therapy is particularly promising because it offers a way to boost the immune system with active cancer fighting cells. It can be used after chemotherapy by infusion of donor NK cells (from a family member or synthesized universal donor cells) and they can target and kill remaining cancer cells. If the cancer goes into remission with NK cell therapy, they may be eligible for a stem cell transplant. Success in leukemia treatment has allowed additional studies treating patients with advanced solid tumors including colon, lung, breast and head and neck cancers and NK therapy into the abdominal cavity for women with ovarian cancer.
University of Minnesota Health is a world leader in NK cell therapy. Together with our robust blood and marrow transplant program, we offer unmatched experience and expertise in cellular therapies.
We have a number of clinical trials open for patients with blood cancers and solid tumors. Please visit this page for a list of our trials and contact information to learn more.