Submit Manuscript  

Article Details

Induction of Abscopal Anti-Tumor Immunity and Immunogenic Tumor Cell Death by Ionizing Irradiation - Implications for Cancer Therapies

[ Vol. 19 , Issue. 12 ]


B. Frey, Y. Rubner, R. Wunderlich, E.-M. Weiss, A.G. Pockley, R. Fietkau and U.S. Gaipl   Pages 1751 - 1764 ( 14 )


Although cancer progression is primarily driven by the expansion of tumor cells, the tumor microenvironment and anti-tumor immunity also play important roles. Herein, we consider how tumors can become established by escaping immune surveillance and also how cancer cells can be rendered visible to the immune system by standard therapies such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, either alone or in combination with additional immune stimulators. Although local radiotherapy results in DNA damage (targeted effects), it is also capable of inducing immunogenic forms of tumor cell death which are associated with a release of immune activating danger signals (non-targeted effects), such as necrosis. Necrotic tumor cells may result from continued exposure to death stimuli and/or an impaired phosphatidylserine (PS) dependent clearance of the dying tumor cells. In such circumstances, mature dendritic cells take up tumor antigen and mediate the induction of adaptive and innate anti-tumor immunity. Locally-triggered, systemic immune activation can also lead to a spontaneous regression of tumors or metastases that are outside the radiation field - an effect which is termed abscopal. Preclinical studies have demonstrated that combining radiotherapy with immune stimulation can induce anti-tumor immunity. Given that it takes time for immunity to develop following exposure to immunogenic tumor cells, we propose practical combination therapies that should be considered as a basis for future research and clinical practice. It is essential that radiation oncologists become more aware of the importance of the immune system to the success of cancer therapy.


Abscopal effects, anti-tumor immunity, cancer, danger signals, dendritic cells, immune editing, immunogenic tumor cell death, radiotherapy


Department of Radiation Oncology, Radiation Immunobiology, University Hospital Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, Universitatsstr. 27, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.

Read Full-Text article