Integration of radiation and immunotherapy in breast cancer - Treatment implications
Radiation therapy (RT) has been successfully used in the treatment of breast cancer (BC) for over a century. While historically thought to be immunosuppressive, new data have shown that RT can work together with the immune system to eliminate cancer. It can cause immunogenic cell death and facilitate tumor neoantigen presentation and cross-priming of tumor-specific T-lymphocytes, turning irradiated tumor into an in-situ vaccine. Unfortunately, due to various immune escape mechanism put in place by the tumor, RT alone rarely results in a systemic response of metastatic disease sites (known as the abscopal effect). Immunotherapy, a series of agents designed to stimulate the immune system in order to generate tumor-specific immune response, is showing promise in treatment of various cancers, including BC, and can be an ideal complement to RT in stimulating a systemic immune response to reject the tumor cells. This review discusses the mechanisms in which RT can trigger an immune response for tumor rejection, and provide emerging preclinical and clinical data of combination immunoradiotherapy, and its potential in treating BC.