Natural killer (NK) cells are cytotoxic lymphoid cells that play a key role in defenses against tumors. However, their function may be severely impaired in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PA). Indeed, PA cells release soluble factors, thereby generating an immunosuppressive environment that dysregulates NK-cell cytolytic function and favors tumor immune evasion.
We analyzed the interactions between NK and PA cells using the PANC-1 and CAPAN-1 cell lines derived from a ductal PA and metastatic lesion, respectively.
The results, together with their correlation with poor clinical outcomes in PA patients, suggest that the induction of resistance to cytolysis upon exposure to NK-derived soluble factors could reflect the occurrence of EMT in tumor cells.
A deeper investigation of the interaction between NK cells and tumor cells may be crucial for immunotherapy, possibly improving the outcome of PA treatment by targeting critical steps of NK-tumor cell crosstalk.


Paola Vacca is a researcher with extensive experience in medical translational research. After her degree in Medical Biotechnologies, she got her Ph.D. in Immunology, Vaccinology, and Organ transplantation, gaining experience in various areas, including innate immunity and the analysis of immune responses. In her role as an Assistant Professor of Pathology, she characterized innate lymphoid cells and published important results in NK cells present in malignant pleural effusions and their possible exploitation in anti-tumor immunotherapy. Currently, she works as a Researcher at the Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesù, where she studies MDSC in pediatric tumors and their impact on effector cells. Paola has published over 75 articles in high-ranking international journals, won several competitive awards and grants, and successfully coordinates a research unit in the immunology area.

Piera Fiore is a postdoctoral researcher with a degree in Biotechnology and a Ph.D. in Morphogenesis and Tissue Engineering from the University of Rome “La Sapienza.”
Her Ph.D. thesis focused on the role of PKC theta in muscle dystrophies and the role of the immune system in muscle damage and regeneration. After completing their Ph.D., she joined the Immunology department at Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesù where she’s involved in projects characterizing the antitumor activity of innate immune cells, specifically focusing on the effects of solid tumors on NK cell effector functions. Their goal is to understand the biology of NK cells and identify strategies to overcome the inhibitory influence of the tumor microenvironment on their antitumor activity.

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