Current management for late normal tissue injury: radiation-induced fibrosis and necrosis

Semin Radiat Oncol. 2007 Apr;17(2):99-107. doi: 10.1016/j.semradonc.2006.11.006.


Radiation-induced fibrosis (RIF) and radionecrosis (RN) are late complications that are usually considered irreversible. Usual management strategy includes eliminating local and general aggravating factors and controlling acute and chronic inflammation with steroids. Thanks to progress in understanding the pathophysiology of these lesions, several lines of treatment have been developed in clinical practice. However, results of clinical studies are difficult to compare because of variations in severity of RIF, method of RIF assessment, availability of efficient therapeutic drugs, treatment duration, and quality of trial design. For moderate established RIF, current management strategy mainly includes (1) anti-inflammatory treatment with corticosteroids or interferon gamma; (2) vascular therapy with pentoxifylline (PTX) or hyperbaric oxygen (HBO); and (3) antioxidant treatment with superoxide dismutase, tocopherol (vitamin E), and, most successfully, with a PTX-vitamin E combination. On the basis of etiology, RN can be managed by (1) anti-inflammatory treatment with corticosteroids and possibly clodronate, (2) vascular therapy with HBO and PTX, (3) antioxidant treatment with a PTX-vitamin E combination, and (4) a PTX-vitamin E-clodronate combination. Controlled randomized trials are now necessary to identify the best treatment at each step of RIF. In the future, these treatments of fibrosis and necrosis should include targeted drugs (such as growth factors) to take organ specificities into account.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Atrophy / drug therapy
  • Atrophy / etiology
  • Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Fibrosis / etiology
  • Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation
  • Interferon-gamma / therapeutic use
  • Necrosis / drug therapy
  • Necrosis / etiology
  • Necrosis / physiopathology
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use
  • Radiation Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Radiation Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Antioxidants
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Pentoxifylline