Radiation as an immune modulator

Semin Radiat Oncol. 2013 Oct;23(4):273-80. doi: 10.1016/j.semradonc.2013.05.009.


Radiation therapy is currently one of the most widely utilized treatment strategies in the clinical management of cancer. Classically, radiation therapy was developed as an anticancer treatment on the basis of its capacity to induce DNA double strand breaks in exposed cancer cells, ultimately resulting in tumor cell death. Recently, our understanding of radiation effects has expanded widely in terms of the consequences of radiation-induced tumor cell death and the pertinent cells, signaling pathways, and molecular sensors that modify the tumor response to radiation. It is now well accepted that inflammation plays a complex dual role in promoting or inhibiting tumor growth. The capacity of inflammatory responses to alter the tumor response to radiation therapy, and vice versa, is now the subject of intense scientific and clinical investigation. Herein, we review the concepts regarding the immunostimulatory properties of radiation therapy with particular focus on the effects of radiation therapy on the tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Immunity, Innate / radiation effects
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Cytokines