Alterations of nk cell phenotype in the disease course of multiple myeloma

Tatiana Pazina, Alexander W. Macfarlane, Luca Bernabei, Essel Dulaimi, Rebecca Kotcher, Clinton Yam, Natalie A. Bezman, Michael D. Robbins, Eric A. Ross, Kerry S. Campbell, Adam D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accumulating evidence demonstrates important roles for natural killer (NK) cells in controlling multiple myeloma (MM). A prospective flow cytometry-based analysis of NK cells in the blood and bone marrow (BM) of MM patient subgroups was performed (smoldering (SMM), newly diagnosed (ND), relapsed/refractory, (RR) and post-stem cell transplantation (pSCT)). Assessments included the biomarker expression and function of NK cells, correlations between the expression of receptors on NK cells with their ligands on myeloma cells, and comparisons between MM patient subgroups and healthy controls. The most striking differences from healthy controls were found in RR and pSCT patients, in which NK cells were less mature and expressed reduced levels of the activating receptors DNAM-1, NKG2D, and CD16. These differences were more pronounced in the BM than in blood, including upregulation of the therapeutic targets TIM3, TIGIT, ICOS, and GITR. Their expression suggests NK cells became exhausted upon chronic encounters with the tumor. A high expression of SLAMF7 on blood NK cells correlated with shorter progression-free survival. This correlation was particularly evident in ND patients, including on mature CD56dim NK cells in the BM. Thus, our NK cell analysis identified possible therapeutic targets in MM and a biomarker with prognostic potential for disease progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number226
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2 2021


  • Blood
  • Bone marrow
  • DNAM-1
  • GITR
  • Multiple myeloma
  • NCR
  • NK cells
  • NKG2D
  • SLAMF7

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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