Nantkwest Announces Landmark Study Published on high affinity haNK Cell Therapy in the Journal Oncotarget

Nov 21, 2016

Next Generation NK Cell Therapy Poised to Transition into Human Clinical Trials

Culver City, November 21, 2016  NantKwest Inc. (Nasdaq:NK), a pioneering, next generation, clinical-stage immunotherapy company focused on harnessing the unique power of the immune system using natural killer (NK) cells to treat cancer, infectious diseases and inflammatory diseases, announced in a paper published today in the journal Oncotarget results of a research study conducted at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in collaboration with scientists at NantKwest and NantCell. The title of the paper is: An NK cell line (haNK) expressing high levels of granzyme and engineered to express the high affinity CD16 allele.

The study’s results highlight the key role natural killer (NK) cells play in mediating innate immunity and enhancing adaptive immune responses, as well as anti-tumor responses via antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) by activation of the CD16 high affinity receptor with the Fc region of human IgG1 antibodies.

In this research study, aNK (NK-92) cells, lacking CD16, were engineered to express the high affinity CD16 receptor (V158 FcγRIIIa) and further engineered to express IL-2. These high affinity NK (haNK) cells, have been shown in previous studies to enhanced perforin and granzyme-mediated killing of tumor cells, as well as support the expansion of NK cell populations.

Study results showed high levels of granzyme activity in haNK cells and demonstrated the effects of irradiation on haNK cell in multiple phenotypic markers, viability, IL-2 production, and cell killing in a wide range of human tumor cells. The study also compared endogenous irradiated haNK cell killing of tumor cells with that of irradiated haNK-mediated ADCC using cetuximab, trastuzumab and pertuzumab monoclonal antibodies.

The senior author of the study, Jeffrey Schlom, PhD, Chief of the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology at the National Cancer Institute, commenting on the results, said the following: “We believe these studies provide a strong rationale for the potential use of haNK cells in NK cell-based therapy for a wide range of human tumor types. In addition, since only about 10% of humans are homozygous for the high affinity V CD16 allele, this study also establishes a strong rationale for the use of haNK cells in combination with IgG1 based monoclonal antibodies.”

Echoing Dr. Schlom’s conclusion, Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, PhD, Chairman and CEO of NantKwest and a co-senior author on the paper said the following: “Ongoing preclinical studies using haNK cell therapy in combination with antibody therapy offer the promising potential to enhance the clinical efficacy of either agent alone and become a part of the standard-of-care for cancer patients. With this foundational data in place, we on now focused on rapidly transitioning our haNK program into human clinical trials over the next few months.”


NantKwest (Nasdaq:NK) is a pioneering, next generation, clinical-stage immunotherapy company focused on harnessing the unique power of our immune system using natural killer (NK) cells to treat cancer, infectious diseases and inflammatory diseases. NK cells are the body’s first line of defense due to the innate ability of NK cells to rapidly identify and destroy cells under stress, such as cancer or virally-infected cells.

NantKwest’s unique NK cell-based platform, with the capacity to grow active killer cells as a biological cancer therapy, has been designed to induce cell death against cancer or infected cells by three different modes of action: (1) Direct killing using activated NK cells (aNK) that release toxic granules directly into the cell through cell to cell contact, (2) Antibody-mediated killing using haNKs, which are NK cells engineered to incorporate a high affinity receptor that binds to an administered antibody, enhancing the cancer cell killing effect of that antibody, and (3) Targeted activated killing using taNKs, which are NK cells engineered to incorporate chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to target tumor-specific antigens found on the surface of cancer cells.

Our aNK, haNK and taNK platform addresses certain limitations of T cell therapies including the reduction of risk of serious “cytokine storms” reported after T cell therapy. As an “off-the-shelf” therapy, NantKwest’s NK cells do not rely on a patient’s own often compromised immune system. In Phase 1 clinical trials in patients with late stage cancer, NantKwest’s NK cells have been successfully administered as an outpatient infusion therapy without any reported severe side effects, even at doses of 10 billion cells.

By leveraging an integrated and extensive genomics and transcriptomics discovery and development engine, together with a pipeline of multiple, clinical-stage, immuno-oncology programs that include a Phase 2 trial for a rare form of melanoma and the planned initiation of a clinical trial of NK cells targeted to breast cancer, we believe NantKwest is uniquely positioned to be the premier immunotherapy company and transform medicine by delivering living drugs in a bag and bringing novel NK cell-based therapies to routine clinical care. For more information, please visit ‎

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