Fight aggressive skin cancer with killer cells – healing practice

Immunotherapy against black skin cancer

Malignant melanoma, often referred to as black skin cancer, is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Treatment in the advanced stages poses a challenge for medical professionals. Nevertheless, the survival rate of those affected has improved significantly over the past decade. This is mainly due to advances in immunotherapy.

However, according to a working group at the University Medical Center in Göttingen, only around 40 percent of patients with malignant melanoma respond to immunotherapy. The team identified biomarkers that can be used to predict whether or not immunotherapy will work in a person. The research results were recently published in the journal “Cancer Research” presented.

Biomarkers to predict therapy success prospects

For the first time, the research group examined natural killer cells of the immune system with regard to their role in immunotherapies against skin cancer. The team was able to identify a number of biomarkers that can be used to predict how well immunotherapy will work in a person. According to the researchers, natural killer cells (NK cells) have so far not been considered in the development of immunotherapies for melanoma. Involvement could have a decisive advantage in the chances of success of the therapy.

What do natural killer cells do?

As the working group explains in a press release on the research results, NK cells have cytotoxic properties and can kill diseased cells. The natural killer cells have the advantage over the T cells of the immune system that they do not first have to be stimulated specifically for an antigen.

This makes NK cells a promising tool in the treatment of solid tumors. According to the researchers, there is currently no therapy in which NK cells are specifically taken into account. Its use is already being tested in some preclinical studies.

Disadvantage of currently available immunotherapies

The research team cautions that currently available immunotherapies are expensive and have significant side effects. The response rate is relatively low at less than 40 percent. In the immunotherapy used, cytotoxic T cells in particular are activated against the tumor.

“In order to be able to treat melanoma better, it would be of decisive advantage if it could be predicted before the tumor is treated whether the tumor will respond to the therapy,” explains study lead author Dr. Sabrina Cappello.

Improved immunotherapies in prospect

“The results of the study could offer a double advantage for cancer patients,” adds Professor Dr. Ivan Bogeski from the study team. On the one hand, the investigations could be used to predict the response to the T-cell-based immunotherapies already used in the clinic. On the other hand, the findings could help to develop and optimize NK cell-based therapies in the future, explains the professor. According to the working group, the research results form the basis for personalized cancer therapy in the future. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of medical specialist literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


Diploma-Editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Sabrina Cappello, Hsu-Min Sung, Christian Ickes, et al.: Protein Signatures of NK Cell–Mediated Melanoma Killing Predict Response to Immunotherapies; in: Cancer Research, 2021, doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-0164.,
  • University Medicine Göttingen: With killer cells against skin cancer (published: 01/28/2022),

Important NOTE:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.

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