Radiotherapy: An immune response modifier for immuno-oncology

Semin Immunol. 2021 Feb;52:101474. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2021.101474. Epub 2021 Mar 23.


The ability of radiotherapy to enhance antigenicity and adjuvanticity of an irradiated tumor has stimulated the interest for its combination with immuno-oncology agents. However, radiotherapy often generates multiple layers of host responses which likely depends on the tumor biology, the immune cell infiltration and the induction of immunosuppressive signals post radiotherapy. Consequently, translation of preclinical findings to the clinic is more convoluted than anticipated which underscore the need to decipher molecular and cellular mechanisms elicited by radiotherapy. Here we review pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive mechanisms triggered by radiotherapy that impact the outcome of antigen specific T cell killing and discuss how radiation-induced immunostimulatory mechanisms can be exploited to reactivate the host's immune system, especially in the context of immunotherapy.

Keywords: Adjuvanticity; Immunosuppression; Nucleic acid sensing; Radiotherapy; Tumor microenvironment; Type I interferon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Immunotherapy
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • T-Lymphocytes