Advances in Combining Radiation and Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer

Anthony T. Nguyen, Stephen L. Shiao, Heather L. McArthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Breast irradiation has long been utilized in the adjuvant or metastatic setting to eliminate microscopic disease or to palliate existing disease, respectively. However, preclinical data have demonstrated that radiation can also alter the tumor microenvironment and induce antitumor immune responses. As a result, multiple clinical studies have been undertaken and have reported synergy between radiation and immune checkpoint blockade across various cancer types. Given recent clinical successes with immune checkpoint blockade in both early-stage and metastatic breast cancer, there has been substantial interest in combining radiation and immunotherapy to enhance local and systemic immune responses. Herein, we review the preclinical rationale for combining radiotherapy and immunotherapy, the early clinical trials that have adopted this strategy in breast cancer, and the landscape of ongoing relevant clinical trials. Finally, we propose future directions based on promising preclinical studies that integrate radiation, checkpoint blockade, and novel agents for the treatment of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-152
Number of pages10
JournalClinical breast cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Metastatic breast cancer
  • Radiation oncology
  • Triple-negative breast cancer
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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