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Radiotherapy (RT) is currently used in more than 50% of cancer patients during the course of their disease in the curative, adjuvant or palliative setting. RT achieves good local control of tumor growth, conferring DNA damage and impacting tumor vasculature and the immune system. Formerly regarded as a merely immunosuppressive treatment, pre- and clinical observations indicate that the therapeutic effect of RT is partially immune mediated. In some instances, RT synergizes with immunotherapy (IT), through different mechanisms promoting an effective antitumor immune response. Cell death induced by RT is thought to be immunogenic and results in modulation of lymphocyte effector function in the tumor microenvironment promoting local control. Moreover, a systemic immune response can be elicited or modulated to exert effects outside the irradiation field (so called abscopal effects). In this review, we discuss the body of evidence related to RT and its immunogenic potential for the future design of novel combination therapies.

Original publication




Journal article


Therapeutic advances in medical oncology

Publication Date





Innate Immunity Group, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.