Radiation, immunotherapy gives greater effectiveness for lung cancer treatment

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Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU) Cancer Institute researchers have found the right formula of radiation and immunotherapy for fighting lung cancer tumors in mice, which they hope will translate to better treatment in human lung cancers.

The study was presented at the 50th annual American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) conference in Boston last week.

Principal investigator Marka Crittenden, MD, PhD, and colleagues wanted to look at the effects of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) on the immune system.

"We studied the consequences of SBRT radiation doses in preclinical tumors and found that there were fewer of the cells that turn off the immune system and more of the good 'killer' immune cells following these radiation doses," said Crittenden, OHSU department of radiation medicine, OHSU School of Medicine in Portland.

Researchers selected a form of immunotherapy that could boost the immune response while working with the immune response generated by the SBRT. Cancer immunotherapy works to boost the body's own immune system to attack tumor cells.

They found that SBRT combined with immunotherapy was much more effective at clearing the tumor than either used alone.

"We hope to translate this to patient studies and develop therapies combining the potent tumor destruction of SBRT with the patient's own immune system to further improve the efficacy of radiation therapy for cancer," Crittenden said.