Molecular radiobiology: the state of the art.
Traditional cytotoxic agents used in cancer therapy were initially discovered based on their ability to kill rapidly dividing cells. The targets of these early-generation agents were typically one or more aspects of DNA synthesis or mitosis. Thus, dose-limiting toxicities commonly associated with these agents include GI dysfunction, immunosuppression, and other consequences of injury to normal tissues in which cells are replicating under normal physiologic conditions. Although many of these agents still play an important role in cancer therapy when given concurrently with radiation therapy, the major thrust of radiobiology research in the last two decades has focused on discovering tumor-specific traits that might be exploited for more selective targeting that would enhance the efficacy of radiotherapy with less normal tissue toxicity. These newer generation molecular targeted therapies interfere with the growth of tumor cells by inhibiting genes and their protein products that are needed specifically by the tumor for survival and expansion. These agents can be complementary to radiotherapy, a spatially targeted agent. Although there have been extraordinary technical advances in radiotherapy in recent years, we are reaching the limits of improvements that radiotherapy delivery technology can bring and need different approaches. This review will highlight promising new tumor biology-based targets and other novel strategies to reduce normal tissue injury, increase tumor control, and expand the use of radiotherapy to treat widespread metastatic disease.