The reciprocity between radiotherapy and cancer immunotherapy

Yifan Wang, Zhi Gang Liu, Hengfeng Yuan, Weiye Deng, Jing Li, Yuhui Huang, Betty Y.S. Kim, Michael D. Story, Wen Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The clinical success of immune checkpoint inhibitors in treating metastatic and refractory cancers has generated significant interest in investigating their role in treating locally advanced diseases, thus requiring them to be combined with standard treatments in the hope of producing synergistic antitumor responses. Radiotherapy, in particular, has long been hypothesized to have actions complementary to those of immune checkpoint blockade, and a growing body of evidence indicates that cancer immunotherapy may also have radiosensitizing effects, which would provide unique benefit for locoregional treatments. Recent studies have demonstrated that when immune cells are activated by immunotherapeutics, they can reprogram the tumor microenvironment in ways that may potentially increase the radiosensitivity of the tumor. In this review, we highlight the evidence that supports reciprocal interactions between cancer immunotherapy and radiotherapy, where in addition to the traditional notion that radiation serves to enhance the activation of antitumor immunity, an alternative scenario also exists in which T-cell activation by cancer immunotherapy may sensitize tumors to radiation treatment through mechanisms that include normalization of the tumor vasculature and tissue hypoxia. We describe the empirical observations from preclinical models that support such effects and discuss their implications for future research and trial design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1709-1717
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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