Radiotherapy and the potential exploitation of bystander effects
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Radiation-induced bystander effects are the subject of intense investigation in radiation protection. The effects predominate at low doses and have been discussed mainly in terms of the impact on low-dose risk assessment. Possible therapeutic implications have been alluded to, but not discussed in any detail. The purpose of this review was to consider bystander biology in areas of major importance or interest in radiotherapy. These include consideration of radiation-induced bystander effects during the cell cycle, under hypoxic conditions, when fractionated therapy modalities are used, or when combined radiochemotherapy is given. Also discussed are individual variations in toxicity of bystander factors and normal tissue "collateral" damage. The importance of considering the tumor in the context of the organ, and even the organism that supports it, is also discussed. Direct clinical radiotherapy studies that consider bystander effects are not in the public domain at the time of writing, but many in vitro studies are available that are relevant; some preliminary animal data have also been published. Because radiation-induced bystander effects appear to challenge many of the central assumptions that underlie radiotherapy practice, it is important to consider what unexplored treatment avenues might result from a consideration of these effects. The final part of this paper is devoted to this point.
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