A non-canonical strategy may improve cancer radiotherapy
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IMAGE: Non-canonical NF-kB promotes radiation-induced anti-tumor immunity. view more 

Credit: Ralph Weichselbaum and Yang Xin Fu

Although the success or failure of radiation therapy for cancer has long been associated with the intrinsic radio-resistance or radio-sensitivity of tumor cells, a new approach is demonstrating that radiation can take credit for an additional benefit — causing highly effective secondary immune responses that can enhance anti-tumor immunity.

In the past decade, researchers Ralph Weichselbaum and Yang Xin Fu have promoted the concept that how the host immune system interacts with therapeutic radiation is just as important as radiation itself. The cellular carnage caused by radiation attracts scavengers, such as dendritic cells. These warriors chew up radiation-damaged cancer cells and present the fragments to T cells that dismantle them.

In the September 18, 2018 issue of the journal Immunity — available online August 28 — the Weichselbaum-Fu collaboration demonstrates how specific interactions between therapeutic radiation and a potential patient’s innate and adaptive immune responses can improve cancer treatment.

The researchers focused on how two versions of the nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signaling pathway respond to radiation therapy in opposing ways. NF-κB1, first described in 1986 by Nobel laureate David Baltimore, was proposed as

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