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Am J Pathol. 2013 Jun;182(6):2345-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2013.02.041. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

IFN-γ mediates the antitumor effects of radiation therapy in a murine colon tumor.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Cancer treatments using ionizing radiation (IR) therapy are thought to act primarily through the induction of tumor cell damage at a molecular level. However, a new concept has recently emerged, suggesting that the immune system is required for effective IR therapy. Our work here has identified interferon gamma (IFN-γ) as an essential cytokine for the efficacy of IR therapy. Local IR (15 Gy) to mice bearing Colon38, a colon adenocarcinoma, decreases tumor burden in wild-type animals. Interestingly, IR therapy had no effect on tumor burden in IFNγKO mice. We further determined that intratumoral levels of IFN-γ increased 2 days following IR, which directly correlated with a decrease in tumor burden that was not a result of direct cytotoxic effects of IFN-γ on tumor cells. T cells from IR-treated tumors exhibited a far greater capacity to lyse tumor cells in a (51)Cr release assay, a process that was dependent on IFN-γ. CD8(+) T cells were the predominant producers of IFN-γ, as demonstrated by IFN-γ intracellular staining and studies in IFN-γ reporter mice. Elimination of CD8(+) T cells by antibody treatment reduced the intratumoral levels of IFN-γ by over 90%. More importantly, elimination of CD8(+) T cells completely abrogated the effects of radiation therapy. Our data suggest that IFN-γ plays a pivotal role in mediating the antitumor effects of IR therapy.

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