Immune modulation in advanced radiotherapies: Targeting out-of-field effects

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By virtue of being a localized treatment modality, radiotherapy is unable to deliver a tumoricidal radiation dose to tissues outside of the irradiated field. Nevertheless, ionizing radiation may result in radiation damage mediated by a bystander like effect away from the irradiated field, but this response is likely to be modest when radiotherapy is the sole treatment modality. Over the last decade there has been a re-emergence of immune modulating therapies as anti-cancer treatment modalities. Clinical trials on vaccines have on the whole been largely disappointing, but greater response rates have been observed from the immune checkpoint modulators. A clinical benefit of using such agents has been shown in disease sites such as melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. There is growing pre-clinical data and a number of case reports which suggest the presence of abscopal effects when radiotherapy is co-administered with immune checkpoint inhibitors, suggesting that this combination may lead to an enhanced tumour response outside of the primary treatment field. In this review, the mechanisms of such an enhanced out-of-field tumour response, the potential clinical utilities, the optimal radiotherapy delivery and considerations for clinical follow-up following treatment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-251
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2015


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