Immunotherapy, radiotherapy, and hyperthermia: A combined therapeutic approach in pancreatic cancer treatment

Javed Mahmood, Hem D. Shukla, Sandrine Soman, Santanu Samanta, Prerna Singh, Shriya Kamlapurkar, Ali Saeed, Neha P. Amin, Zeljko Vujaskovic

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer (PC) has the highest mortality rate amongst all other cancers in both men and women, with a one-year relative survival rate of 20%, and a five-year relative survival rate of 8% for all stages of PC combined. The Whipple procedure, or pancreaticoduodenectomy, can increase survival for patients with resectable PC, however, less than 20% of patients are candidates for surgery at time of presentation. Most of the patients are diagnosed with advanced PC, often with regional and distant metastasis. In these advanced cases, chemotherapy and radiation have shown limited tumor control, and PC continues to be refractory to treatment and results in a poor survival outcome. In recent years, there has been intensive research on checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy for PC, however, PC is characterized with dense stromal tissue and a tumor microenvironment (TME) that is highly immunosuppressive, which makes immunotherapy less effective. Interestingly, when immunotherapy is combined with radiation therapy (RT) and loco-regional hyperthermia (HT), it has demonstrated enhanced tumor responses. HT improves tumor killing via a variety of mechanisms, targeting both the tumor and the TME. Targeted HT raises the temperature of the tumor and surrounding tissues to 42–43°C and makes the tumor more immunoresponsive. HT can also modulate the immune system of the TME by inducing and synthesizing heat shock proteins (HSP), which also activate an anti-tumor response. It is well known that HT can enhance RT-induced DNA damage in cancer cells and simultaneously help to oxygenate hypoxic regions. Thus, it is envisaged that combined HT and RT might have immunomodulatory effects in the PC-TME, making PC more responsive to immunotherapies. Moreover, the combined tripartite approach of immunotherapy, RT, and HT could reduce the overall toxicity associated with each individual therapy, while concomitantly enhancing the immunotherapeutic effect of overall individual therapies to treat local and metastatic PC. Thus, the use of a tripartite combinatorial approach could be promising and more efficacious than monotherapy or dual therapy to treat and increase the survival of the PC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number469
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Immunotherapy
  • Metastasis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted hyperthermia
  • Tripartite
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Immunotherapy, radiotherapy, and hyperthermia: A combined therapeutic approach in pancreatic cancer treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this