Lymphopenia and intratumoral lymphocytic balance in the era of cancer Immuno-Radiotherapy

Michael I Koukourakis, Alexandra Giatromanolaki
Critical Reviews in Oncology/hematology 2021 January 19, : 103226

INTRODUCTION: The immune response has been recognized as a major tumor-eradication component of radiotherapy.

OBJECTIVE: This review studies, under a clinical perspective, two contrasting effects of radiotherapy, namely immunosuppression and radiovaccination.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We critically reviewed the available clinical and experimental experience on radiotherapy-induced lymphopenia.

RESULTS: Radiation-induced tumor damage promotes radio-vaccination, enhances cytotoxic immune responses, and potentiates immunotherapy. Nevertheless, radiotherapy induces systemic and intratumoral lymphopenia. The above effects are directly related to radiotherapy fractionation and field size/location, and tumor characteristics.

DISCUSSION: Hypofractionated stereotactic and accelerated irradiation better promotes radio-vaccination and produces less severe lymphopenia. Adopting cytoprotective policies and combining lympho-stimulatory agents or agents blocking regulatory lymphocyte activity are awaited to unmask the radio-vaccination effect, enhancing the efficacy immuno-radiotherapy.

CONCLUSION: Radiation-induced lymphopenia and immunosuppression are important issues that should be considered in the design of immuno-radiotherapy clinical trials.

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