Radiation therapy is an effective means of achieving local control in a wide range of primary tumours, with the reduction in the size of the tumour(s) thought to mediate the observed reductions in metastatic spread in clinical trials. However, there is evidence to suggest that the complex changes induced by radiation in the tumour environment can also present metastatic risks that may counteract the long-term efficacy of the treatment. More than 25 years ago, several largely theoretical mechanisms by which radiation exposure might increase metastatic risk were postulated. These include the direct release of tumour cells into the circulation, systemic effects of tumour and normal tissue irradiation and radiation-induced changes in tumour cell phenotype. Here, we review the data that has since emerged to either support or refute these putative mechanisms focusing on how the unique radiobiology underlying modern radiotherapy modalities might alter these risks.
- Journal Article