EMBO Rep. 22 (3) e51329 [2021-03-03; online 2021-01-22]
Inadequate persistence of tumor-infiltrating natural killer (NK) cells is associated with poor prognosis in cancer patients. The solid tumor microenvironment is characterized by the presence of immunosuppressive factors, including prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), that limit NK cell persistence. Here, we investigate if the modulation of the cytokine environment in lung cancer with IL-2 or IL-15 renders NK cells resistant to suppression by PGE2. Analyzing Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data, we found that high NK cell gene signatures correlate with significantly improved overall survival in patients with high levels of the prostaglandin E synthase (PTGES). In vitro, IL-15, in contrast to IL-2, enriches for CD25+ /CD54+ NK cells with superior mTOR activity and increased expression of the cAMP hydrolyzing enzyme phosphodiesterase 4A (PDE4A). Consequently, this distinct population of NK cells maintains their function in the presence of PGE2 and shows an increased ability to infiltrate lung adenocarcinoma tumors in vitro and in vivo. Thus, strategies to enrich CD25+ /CD54+ NK cells for adoptive cell therapy should be considered.