Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy and immunotherapy combinations: turning the future into systemic therapy?

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Radiotherapy (RT) is effective at cytoreducing tumours and until relatively recently the focus in radiobiology has been on the direct effects of RT on the tumour. Increasingly, however, the effect of RT on the tumour vasculature, tumour stroma and immune system are recognized as important to the overall outcome. RT is known to lead to the induction of immunogenic cell death (ICD), which can generate tumour-specific immunity. However, systemic immunity leading to "abscopal effects" resulting in tumour shrinkage outside of the RT treatment field is rare, which is thought to be caused by the immunosuppressive nature of the tumour microenvironment. Recent advances in understanding the nature of this immunosuppression and therapeutics targeting immune checkpoints such as programmed death 1 has led to durable clinical responses in a range of cancer types including malignant melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancer. The effects of RT dose and fraction on the generation of ICD and systemic immunity are largely unknown and are currently under investigation. Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) provides an opportunity to deliver single or hypofractionated large doses of RT and potentially increase the amount of ICD and the generation of systemic immunity. Here, we review the interplay of RT and the tumour microenvironment and the rationale for combining SABR with immunomodulatory agents to generate systemic immunity and improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20160472
JournalThe British journal of radiology
Issue number1066
Early online date14 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Journal Article

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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