Recent studies have documented changes in adhesion molecule expression and function after exposure to ionizing radiation. Adhesion molecules mediate cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and are essential for a variety of physiological and pathological processes including maintenance of normal tissue integrity as well as tumor development and progression. Consequently, modulation of adhesion molecules by radiation may have a role in radiation-induced tumor control and normal tissue damage by interfering with cell signaling, radioresistance, metastasis, angiogenesis, carcinogenesis, immune response, inflammation and fibrosis. In addition, the interactions of radiation with adhesion molecules could have a major impact in developing new strategies to increase the efficacy of radiation therapy. Remarkable progress has been made in recent years to design targeted drug delivery to radiation-up-regulated adhesion molecules. Furthermore, the inhibition of adhesion, migration, invasion and angiogenesis by blocking adhesion receptors may represent a new therapeutic approach to improve tumor control and decrease radiation toxicity. This review is focused on current data concerning the mechanistic interactions of radiation with adhesion molecules and the possible clinical-pathological implications in radiotherapy.
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