Journal of Radiation Oncology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 143–156 | Cite as

The systemic immunostimulatory effects of radiation therapy producing overall tumor control through the abscopal effect

  • Mark A. D’Andrea
  • G. Kesava ReddyEmail author



Emerging studies show that radiation therapy produces an important out of field (distant) effect known as the ‘‘abscopal effect” in nonirradiated tumor sites. The objective of this study was to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge and clinical experience of radiation therapy producing abscopal effects in the management of different types of malignant diseases.


Peer-reviewed published clinical evidence on the abscopal effect of radiation therapy was collected using electronic databases such as Medline via PubMed and Google Scholar. The reference lists were searched in the publications that we obtained in an attempt to find additional relevant publications. Non-indexed peer-reviewed journals were manually searched and relevant information was extracted. The search was restricted to English language articles. The clinical data on the abscopal effect of radiation therapy were reviewed and the outcomes have been summarized.


Currently, only clinical case reports and anecdotes have slowly converted into solid clinical data and interest is building in the field of radiation therapy, specifically on how local radiation can produce the abscopal effects for the management of different types of malignant tumors. Extensive clinical evidence suggests that the radiation therapy induced abscopal antitumor effects are mediated by immune cells such as the T-lymphocytes. This forms a basis for using radiation therapy in combination with immunotherapy to augment the abscopal response rates in cancer patients. Current evidence demonstrates that radiation therapy induces abscopal responses across many tumor types.


Together, the clinical outcomes from published reports suggest that localized radiation therapy is capable of inducing abscopal effects in a wide variety of malignant tumors. With the advent of novel immunotherapies, the potential for immune activation by radiation defines a novel role for radiation therapy in the treatment of systemic disease. A clinical consideration of the abscopal effects produced by radiation therapy could lead to a revolutionary change in the current management of patients including radiation treatment strategies and immunotherapies for various malignant tumors.


Abscopal effect Immunomodulation Malignant tumors Metastasis Radiation therapy Solid tumors Systemic effects 


Compliance with ethical standards

This article is not a direct report of any investigation with the involvement of human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


No funding was received for this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article has no direct invlovement of human participants or animals for evaluation by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Statement of informed consent was not applicable since the manuscript is not a direct report of any investigation with the involvement of human subjects.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University Cancer and Diagnostic CentersHoustonUSA

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