Improved understanding of host antiviral defense and antitumor immunity have elucidated molecular pathways important to both processes. During viral infection, RNA or DNA in the host cell serves as a danger signal that initiates the antiviral response. Recent studies have elucidated similarities in the signaling pathways activated by viruses and the signaling pathways induced by tumor DNA that is released into the cytoplasm of irradiated tumor cells. Both the host defense to viral infection and the sterile inflammation provoked by radiotherapy induce a type I interferon response that is necessary for pathogen control and immune-mediated tumor control, respectively. These findings have led to the hypothesis that radiotherapy employs a form of viral mimicry.
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