Radiation as Immunomodulator: Implications for Dendritic Cell-Based Immunotherapy

The last decade has witnessed significant progress in the field of cancer immunotherapy. This has, in part, been driven by a growing recognition that elements of the innate immune response can be harnessed to induce robust immunity against tumor-associated targets. Nonetheless, as clinically effective immunotherapy for the majority of cancers remains a distant goal, attention has shifted toward multimodality approaches to cancer therapy, sometimes combining novel immunotherapeutics and conventional therapeutics. The traditional view of radiation therapy as immunosuppressive has been challenged, prompting a re-evaluation of its potential as an adjunct to, or even a component of immunotherapy. Radiation therapy may enhance expression of tumor-associated antigens, induce targeting of tumor stroma, diminish regulatory T-cell activity and activate effectors of innate immunity such as dendritic cells through Toll-like receptor (TLR)-dependent mechanisms. Here, we review recent progress in the field of dendritic cell-based immunotherapy, evidence for radiation-induced anti-tumor immunity and TLR signaling and the results of efforts to rationally integrate radiation into dendritic cell-based immunotherapy strategies.


A  Department of Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.