Radiation therapy controls local disease but also prompts the release of tumor-associated antigens and stress-related danger signals that primes T cells to promote tumor regression at unirradiated sites known as the abscopal effect. This may be enhanced by blocking inhibitory immune signals that modulate immune activity through a variety of mechanisms. Indeed, abscopal responses have occurred in patients with lung cancer or melanoma when given anti-CTLA4 antibody and radiation. Other approaches involve expanding and reinfusing T or NK cells or engineered T cells to express receptors that target specific tumor peptides. These approaches may be useful for immunocompromised patients receiving radiation. Preclinical and clinical studies are testing both immune checkpoint-based strategies and adoptive immunotherapies with radiation.
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