Molecular Changes in Breast Cancer Induced by Radiation Therapy

Kim Sheva, Sangita Roy Chowdhury, Nataly Kravchenko-Balasha, Amichay Meirovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Breast cancer treatments are based on prognostic clinicopathologic features that form the basis for therapeutic guidelines. Although the utilization of these guidelines has decreased breast cancer-associated mortality rates over the past three decades, they are not adequate for individualized therapy. Radiation therapy (RT) is the backbone of breast cancer treatment. Although a highly successful therapeutic modality clinically, from a biological perspective, preclinical studies have shown RT to have the potential to alter tumor cell phenotype, immunogenicity, and the surrounding microenvironment, potentially changing the behavior of cancer cells and resulting in a significant variation in RT response. This review presents the recent advances in revealing the complex molecular changes induced by RT in the treatment of breast cancer and highlights the complexities of translating this information into clinically relevant tools for improved prognostic insights and the revelation of novel approaches for optimizing RT. Methods and Materials: Current literature was reviewed with a focus on recent advances made in the elucidation of tumor-associated radiation-induced molecular changes across molecular, genetic, and proteomic bases. This review was structured with the aim of providing an up-to-date overview over the very broad and complex subject matter of radiation-induced molecular changes and radioresistance, familiarizing the reader with the broader issue at hand. Results: The subject of radiation-induced molecular changes in breast cancer has been broached from various physiological focal points including that of the immune system, immunogenicity and the abscopal effect, tumor hypoxia, breast cancer classification and subtyping, molecular heterogeneity, and molecular plasticity. It is becoming increasingly apparent that breast cancer clinical subtyping alone does not adequately account for variation in RT response or radioresistance. Multiple components of the tumor microenvironment and immune system, delivered RT dose and fractionation schedules, radiation-induced bystander effects, and intrinsic tumor physiology and heterogeneity all contribute to the resultant RT outcome. Conclusions: Despite recent advances and improvements in anticancer therapies, tumor resistance remains a significant challenge. As new analytical techniques and technologies continue to provide crucial insight into the complex molecular mechanisms of breast cancer and its treatment responses, it is becoming more evident that personalized anticancer treatment regimens may be vital in overcoming radioresistance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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