Moving Beyond the Standard of Care: Accelerate Testing of Radiation-Drug Combinations

Steven H. Lin, Henning Willers, Sunil Krishnan, Jann N. Sarkaria, Michael Baumann, Theodore S. Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radiation therapy is a major treatment modality used in > 60% of cancer patients as definitive local treatment for inoperable locoregionally confined tumors and as palliative therapy. Although cytotoxic chemotherapy enhances the effectiveness of treatment, the benefit over radiation therapy alone is modest. There is a need to enhance the effectiveness of local tumor control over what sequentially or concurrently administered cytotoxic chemotherapy provides. Although many biological pathways are known to enhance the effectiveness of radiation therapy, there is currently a paucity of drugs approved for use in combination. Several clinical trials have tested the effectiveness of combining targeted agents or immunotherapies with radiation therapy, but the results of these trials have been negative, likely stemming from the relative lack of preclinical evidence using appropriate experimental standardization or model systems. Accelerating the identification of agents tested in an appropriate clinical context and experimental systems or models would greatly enhance the potential to bring forward early testing of drugs that would not only be safe but also more effective. This article provides an overview of the opportunities and challenges of developing therapeutics to combine with radiation therapy, and some guidance toward preclinical and early clinical testing to improve the chance that advanced phase testing of drug-radiation combinations would be successful in the long term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1131-1139
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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