Intratumoral CD56bright natural killer cells are associated with improved survival in bladder cancer

Neelam Mukherjee, Niannian Ji, Vincent Hurez, Tyler J. Curiel, Maureen O. Montgomery, Andrew J. Braun, Marlo Nicolas, Marcela Aguilera, Dharam Kaushik, Qianqian Liu, Jianhua Ruan, Kerri A. Kendrick, Robert S. Svatek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: Natural killer (NK) cells are effective at killing tumors in a non-MHC restricted manner and are emerging targets for cancer therapy but their importance in bladder cancer (BC) is poorly defined. NK cells are commonly subdivided into populations based on relative surface expression of CD56. Two major subsets are CD56bright and CD56dim NK cells. Methods: The prevalence of intratumoral lymphocytes was examined via flow cytometric analysis of bladder tissue from a local cohort of patients with noninvasive and invasive BC (n=28). The association of NK cell subsets with cancer-specific survival (CSS) and overall survival (OS) was examined in 50 patients with BC using Cox regression. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) of intratumoral lymphocytes isolated CD56 NK cell subsets were used for examination of function, including cytokine production and in vitro cytotoxicity. Results: NK cells predominated among bladder intratumoral lymphocytes. Intratumoral CD56bright NK cells showed increased cytokine production and cytotoxicity compared to their CD56dim counterparts and were associated with improved CSS and OS independent of pathologic tumor stage. On the other hand, CD56dim NK cells were not associated with improved outcomes but were associated with higher pathologic stage. Conclusions: NK cells are frequent among intratumoral lymphocytes in BC. Bladder intratumoral CD56bright NK cells are functional and prognostically relevant whereas CD56dim NK cells are dysfunctional and prevalent in higher stage tumors. Thus, CD56bright NK cells are promising targets in BC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36492-36502
Number of pages11
Issue number92
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Bladder cancer
  • CD56
  • NK cells
  • Survival
  • Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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