Nina Shah, MD, Hematologist from the University of California, San Francisco, discusses the potential use of natural killer (NK) cells as a treatment for multiple myeloma. 

Multiple myeloma is a rare blood cancer associated with uncontrolled growth of myeloma cells which interferes with the production of healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. Symptoms of multiple myeloma may include: bone pain, frequent infections, weakness or numbness in the legs, fatigue, confusion, excessive thirst, and constipation. While the disease is treatable, relapses are common and some patients are refractory to first line treatment.

As Dr. Shah explains, NK cells are part of the innate immune system. NK cells provide rapid responses to virus-infected, bacteria-infected, and, potentially, cancerous cells. Research has suggested that NK cells have anti-cancer effects and can recognize altered cells which makes them a good candidate for immunotherapy. Multiple myeloma is deeply integrated into the immune system and causes immunosuppression. As such, an immunotherapy that utilizes NK cells may be a ground-breaking treatment option. This is further supported by preclinical data which demonstrated that a potent subset of NK cells, called G-NK cells, enhanced the efficacy of monoclonal antibody treatment in multiple myeloma patients.

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