A malignant tumor consists of malignant cells as well as a wide array of normal host tissues including stroma, vasculature, and immune infiltrate. The interaction between cancer and these host tissues is critical as these host tissues play a variety of roles in supporting or resisting disease progression. Radiotherapy (RT) has direct effects on malignant cells, but, also, critically important effects on these other components of the tumor microenvironment (TME). Given the growing role of immune checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapy strategies, understanding how RT affects the TME, particularly the immune compartment, is essential to advance RT in this new era of cancer therapy. The interactions between RT and the TME are complex, affecting the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. RT can induce both proinflammatory effects and immune suppressive effects that can either promote or impede antitumor immunity. It is likely that the initial proinflammatory effects of RT eventually lead to rebound immune-suppression as chronic inflammation sets in. The exact kinetics and nature of how RT changes the TME likely depends on timing, dose, fractionation, site irradiated, and tumor type. With increased understanding of the effects of RT on the TME, in the future it is likely that we will be able to personalize RT by varying the dose, site, and timing of intervention to generate the desired response to partner with immunotherapy strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Cancer Research