Anticancer therapy and lung injury: molecular mechanisms

Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2018 Oct;18(10):1041-1057. doi: 10.1080/14737140.2018.1500180. Epub 2018 Jul 23.


Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two mainstream strategies applied in the treatment of cancer that is not operable. Patients with hematological or solid tumor malignancies substantially benefit from chemotherapeutic drugs and/or ionizing radiation delivered to the site of malignancy. However, considerable adverse effects, including lung inflammation and fibrosis, are associated with the use of these treatment modalities. Areas covered: As we move toward the era of precision health, we are compelled to understand the molecular basis of chemoradiation-induced pathological lung remodeling and to develop effective treatment strategies that mitigate the development of chronic lung disease (i.e. fibrosis) in cancer patients. The review discusses chemotherapeutic agents that are reported to induce or associate with acute and/or chronic lung injury. Expert commentary: There is a need to molecularly understand how chemotherapeutic drugs induce or associate with respiratory toxicities and whether such characteristics are inherently related to their antitumor effect or are collateral. Once such mechanisms have been identified and/or fully characterized, they may be able to guide disease-management decisions including effective intervention strategies for the adverse effects. In the meantime, radiation oncologists should be judicious on the dose of radiation delivered to the lungs, the volume of lung irradiated, and concurrent use of chemotherapeutic drugs.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; lung fibrosis; lung inflammation; pulmonary toxicity; radiation therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury / etiology*
  • Acute Lung Injury / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Chemoradiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Lung Injury / etiology*
  • Lung Injury / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents