Review Article

Combining radiation plus immunotherapy to improve systemic immune response

Taylor R. Cushman, Daniel Gomez, Rachit Kumar, Anna Likacheva, Joe Y. Chang, Alex P. Cadena, Sebastien Paris, James W. Welsh


Over the past decade, the fields of oncology have made great strides in therapies. The development of new therapeutics and increased understanding of the role of the immune system in the development and treatment of cancer has led to increased collaboration between oncologic fields. Recent technologic advancements in radiation therapy (RT), including stereotactic beam radiation therapy (SBRT), have improved local control and offer an alternative to surgery for the control of oligometastatic disease. Immunotherapy has proven a promising therapeutic in the treatment of metastatic disease but treatment resistance remains a significant obstacle in the majority of patients. Together, radiation and immunotherapy offer potential to eliminate metastatic disease, reduce time to recurrence and improve overall survival. Major obstacles to these positive outcomes include high tumor burden, intratumoral heterogeneity, and the negative effects of tumor stroma, to name a few. Multimodality treatments are under heavy investigation. Promising data from clinical trials is emerging to highlight the value of RT in combination with immunotherapy. However, the mechanisms behind their synergistic effects remain to be fully elucidated. This review aims to highlight the existing literature and offers hypotheses to explain mechanisms behind the synergy of RT and immunotherapy.

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