Effects of irradiation on tumor cell survival, invasion and angiogenesis

J Neurooncol. 2010 Dec;100(3):323-38. doi: 10.1007/s11060-010-0199-4. Epub 2010 May 7.


Ionizing irradiation is a widely applied therapeutic method for the majority of solid malignant neoplasms, including brain tumors where, depending on localization, this might often be the only feasible primary intervention.Without doubt, it has been proved to be a fundamental tool available in the battlefield against cancer, offering a clear survival benefit in most cases. However, numerous studies have associated tumor irradiation with enhanced aggressive phenotype of the remaining cancer cells. A cell population manages to survive after the exposure, either because it receives sublethal doses and/or because it successfully utilizes the repair mechanisms. The biology of irradiated cells is altered leading to up-regulation of genes that favor cell survival, invasion and angiogenesis. In addition, hypoxia within the tumor mass limits the cytotoxicity of irradiation, whereas irradiation itself may worsen hypoxic conditions, which also contribute to the generation of resistant cells. Activation of cell surface receptors, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor, utilization of signaling pathways, and over-expression of cytokines, proteases and growth factors, for example the matrix metalloproteinases and vascular endothelial growth factor, protect tumor and non-tumor cells from apoptosis, increase their ability to invade to adjacent or distant areas, and trigger angiogenesis. This review will try to unfold the various molecular events and interactions that control tumor cell survival, invasion and angiogenesis and which are elicited or influenced by irradiation of the tumor mass, and to emphasize the importance of combining irradiation therapy with molecular targeting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Neoplasms* / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology*
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors