Cancer immunotherapy is a promising field in drug development because it provides new treatment options for various cancers, especially in combination with standard of care. 

Immune system can recognize and eliminate tumour cells and is responsible for targeting most cancers in initial phase. However, cancer cells can escape the immune system. 

What are the cytokine-induced killer cells?

Cytokine-induced killer cells (CIK) are mix of activated lymphocytes, including natural killer T cells, cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells. 

Tolerability and Safety

CIK are studied in vitro and in vivo in some pre-clinical studies. Administration of CIK has shown so far minimal side effects and significant toxicity was observed in only small percentage of treated patients. Some of the most common side effects are: fever, headache, fatigue, fever-related chills and rash. Most of them are resolved spontaneously within 24 h or require only symptomatic treatment. 

Clinical Trials

  1. Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

Immunotherapy with CIK cells used in combination with surgical resection or in patients not candidates for hepatectomy prevents recurrence and/or metastasis and increases overall survival.   

2. Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)

Current studies have shown that CIK treatment may prevent recurrence/metastasis and improve overall survival of  patients with advanced RCC.

3. Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

Current data indicates that CIKA may significantly prolong time to progression in patients with late-stage NSCLC.

4. Gastric Cancer (GC)

Current research shows that CIK could be used as adjuvant treatment to prolong the survival of patients with stage II – III gastric carcinoma.

5. Other Solid Tumors

CIK were studied also in breast cancer, ovarian cancer and soft-tissue sarcomas. While the results in breast cancer and ovarian cancer are promising, the ones in soft-tissue sarcomas are inconclusive. 

There is ongoing research in adoptive immunotherapy where patients are administrated tumor-specific cytotoxic T cells to stimulate patient’s immune system and the cells are able to recognize and kill tumors. 

Challenges in CIK therapy

While current results are promising more studies are required to determine the safety and efficacy of CIK.

  1. There is no standardized protocol for generating CIK cells.
  2. Dosage is not determined yet.
  3. Current studies are too heterogenic to allow clear conclusions about outcome.
  4. CIK are generated under GMP conditions.

Source: Cancer Immunotherapy with Cytokine-Induced Killer Cells

Author: Olga Peycheva

Olga is a clinical research professional who has been working in clinical research since 2005. She has extensive experience in clinical research in Eastern and Western Europe. 

Originally published on 2 Apr 2018