Radiotherapy treatment of human inflammatory diseases and conditions: Optimal dose

Hum Exp Toxicol. 2019 Aug;38(8):888-898. doi: 10.1177/0960327119846925. Epub 2019 May 6.


During the early part of the past century, hundreds of clinical studies involving more than 37,000 patients were conducted that showed radiotherapy (RT) to be a successful and safe alternative to drug therapy for the treatment of many diverse inflammatory conditions and diseases (e.g. tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis, and serious inflammatory lung conditions). Data from these studies were collected and analyzed with the intent of estimating an optimal dosing range for RT that would induce an efficacious treatment response. RT was reported to be frequently effective after only a single treatment, with a rapid (within 24 h) and often long-lasting (from months to years) relief from symptoms. Over a two-decade span from the 1920s to the 1940s, the therapeutic responses to a single RT treatment consistently improved as the dosing for multiple ailments decreased over time to between 30 roentgen (r) and 100 r. These findings are significant and in agreement with a number of contemporary reports from Germany where RT has been commonly and successfully employed in treating ailments with an inflammatory origin. A proposed mechanism by which RT mitigates inflammation and facilitates healing is via the polarization of macrophages to an anti-inflammatory or M2 phenotype.

Keywords: Radiotherapy; adaptive response; dose response; hormesis; inflammation; macrophage polarization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / radiotherapy*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Radiation Dosage