Immunomodulation by radiotherapy in tumour control and normal tissue toxicity

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Radiotherapy (RT) is a highly effective anticancer treatment that is delivered to more than half of all patients with cancer. In addition to the well-documented direct cytotoxic effects, RT can have immunomodulatory effects on the tumour and surrounding tissues. These effects are thought to underlie the so-called abscopal responses, whereby RT generates systemic antitumour immunity outside the irradiated tumour. The full scope of these immune changes remains unclear but is likely to involve multiple components, such as immune cells, the extracellular matrix, endothelial and epithelial cells and a myriad of chemokines and cytokines, including transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ). In normal tissues exposed to RT during cancer therapy, acute immune changes may ultimately lead to chronic inflammation and RT-induced toxicity and organ dysfunction, which limits the quality of life of survivors of cancer. Here we discuss the emerging understanding of RT-induced immune effects with particular focus on the lungs and gut and the potential immune crosstalk that occurs between these tissues.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Reviews Immunology
Early online date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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