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Immunol Rev. 2017 Nov;280(1):249-279. doi: 10.1111/imr.12573.

Abscopal, immunological effects of radiotherapy: Narrowing the gap between clinical and preclinical experiences.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Munich, Germany.
Clinical Cooperation Group 'Personalized Radiotherapy in Head and Neck Cancer' Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health GmbH, Neuherberg, Germany.
German Cancer Consortium Partner Site München, Munich, Germany.


Radiotherapy-despite being a local therapy that meanwhile is characterized by an impressively high degree of spatial accuracy-can stimulate systemic phenomena which occasionally lead to regression and rejection of non-irradiated, distant tumor lesions. These abscopal effects of local irradiation have been observed in sporadic clinical case reports since the beginning of the 20th century, and extensive preclinical work has contributed to identify systemic anti-tumor immune responses as the underlying driving forces. Although abscopal tumor regression still remains a rare event in the radiotherapeutic routine, increasing numbers of cases are being reported, particularly since the clinical implementation of immune checkpoint inhibiting agents. Accordingly, interests to systematically exploit the therapeutic potential of radiotherapy-stimulated systemic responses are constantly growing. The present review briefly delineates the history of radiotherapy-induced abscopal effects and the activation of systemic anti-tumor immune responses by local irradiation. We discuss preclinical and clinical reports with specific focus on the corresponding controversies, and we propose issues that should be addressed in the future in order to narrow the gap between preclinical knowledge and clinical experiences.


abscopal effect; anti-tumor immunity; immunogenic cell death; radiotherapy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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