Activation of NK cells and disruption of PD-L1/PD-1 axis: Two different ways for lenalidomide to block myeloma progression

Massimo Giuliani, Bassam Janji* (Main author), Guy Berchem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Natural Killer (NK) cells play a critical role against tumor cells in hematological malignancies. Their activating receptors are essential in tumor cell killing. In Multiple Myeloma (MM) patients, NK cell differentiation, activation and cytotoxic potential are strongly impaired leading to MM escape from immune surveillance in tissues and bone marrow. Mechanisms used by MM to affect NK cell functions are mediated by the release of soluble factors, the expression of activating and inhibitory NK cell ligands, and the expression of immune check-point inhibitors. Lenalidomide represents an efficient clinical approach in MM treatment to improve patients' survival. Lenalidomide does not only promotes tumor apoptosis, but also stimulates T and NK cells, thereby facilitating NK-mediated tumor recognition and killing. This occurs since Lenalidomide acts on several critical points: stimulates T cell proliferation and cytokine secretion; decreases the expression of the immune check-point inhibitor Programmed Death-1 (PD-1) on both T and NK cells in MM patients; decreases the expression of both PD-1 and PD-L1 on MM cells; promotes MM cell death and abrogates MM/stromal microenvironment cross-talk, a process known to promote the MM cell survival and proliferation. This leads to the inhibition of the negative signal induced by PD-1/PDL1 axis on NK cells, restoring NK cell cytotoxic functions. Given the importance of an effective immune response to counteract the MM progression and the promising approaches using anti-PD-1/PD-L1 strategies, we will discuss in this review how Lenalidomide could represent an adequate approach to re-establish the recognition against MM by exhausted NK cell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24031-24044
Number of pages14
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Immunotherapy
  • Lenalidomide
  • Multiple myeloma
  • NK cells
  • PD-L1/PD-1


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