The unprecedented successes of immunotherapies (IOs) including immune checkpoint blockers (ICBs) and adoptive T-cell therapy (ACT) in patients with late-stage cancer provide proof-of-principle evidence that harnessing the immune system, in particular T cells, can be an effective approach to eradicate cancer. This instills strong interests in understanding the immunomodulatory effects of radiotherapy (RT), an area that was actually investigated more than a century ago but had been largely ignored for many decades. With the “newly” discovered immunogenic responses from RT, numerous endeavors have been undertaken to combine RT with IOs, in order to bolster anti-tumor immunity. However, the underlying mechanisms are not well defined, which is a subject of much investigation. We therefore conducted a systematic literature search on the molecular underpinnings of RT-induced immunomodulation and IOs, which identified the IFN–JAK–STAT pathway as a major regulator. Our further analysis of relevant studies revealed that the signaling strength and duration of this pathway in response to RT and IOs may determine eventual immunological outcomes. We propose that strategic targeting of this axis can boost the immunostimulatory effects of RT and radiosensitizing effects of IOs, thereby promoting the efficacy of combination therapy of RT and IOs.
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