Differential sensitivity of head and neck cancers to non-major histocompatibility-restricted killer cell activity

Stimson P. Schantz, Tamas Racz, Nelson G. Ordonez, Nicholas Terry, Dorothy L. Taylor, Samuel Bugis, Peter G. Sacks

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12 Scopus citations


Cell lines derived from squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract (head and neck cancer) were phenotypically characterized with regard to differential sensitivity to nonmajor histocompatibility restricted (non-MHCr) killer cell activity. Requirements for detectable lysis of the cell lines in a standard chromium release assay included either isolation of fresh enriched Leu 19+ large granular lymphocytes (both Leu 19+CD3+ and Leu 19+CD3- populations) or interleukin-2 (IL-2) stimulation of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). In neither circumstance could lytic activity be identified among Leu 19- populations. With PBL IL-2 stimulation significant differential sensitivity to lysis expressed by the head and neck cancer cell lines (P < 0.001 by analysis of variance) was identified and maintained regardless of PBL source, i.e., PBL from healthy controls and three differing populations of head and neck cancer patients categorized by disease status and treatment. One factor associated with a cell line's increased sensitivity was degree of tumor differentiation, poorly differentiated tumors (as defined by intermediate filament cytochemical staining [decreased keratin and increased vimentin]) being more sensitive. Furthermore, as tumor cell lytic sensitivity increased, major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-class I antigen expression diminished concurrently. In 1 of 4 cell lines tested, however, pretreatment of tumor cells with interferon-γ induced diminished lytic sensitivity independent of changes in MHC-class I expression, indicating factors not related to MHC-class I expression are likewise relevant. In previous studies we defined the in vivo prognostic significance of non-MHCr killer cell cytotoxicity activity against K562 targets, diminished activity being principally predictive of metastatic disease development in persons with poorly differentiated head and neck cancers. This report extends these observations by demonstrating in vitro that poorly differentiated head and neck cancer target cells are highly sensitive to changes in lytic function expressed by Leu 19+ non-MHCr effector cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-164
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1990
Externally publishedYes


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