Effect of Interleukin-7 on Radiation-Induced Lymphopenia and Its Antitumor Effects in a Mouse Model

Hwa Kyung Byun, Kyoung Jin Kim, Su Chul Han, Jinsil Seong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Local ionizing radiation (IR) can lead to systemic lymphocyte depletion, which is associated with poor survival outcomes in patients with cancer. Interleukin-7 (IL-7) plays an important role in lymphocyte homeostasis; however, its role in alleviating radiation-induced lymphopenia remains unclear. Hence, we established a radiation-induced lymphopenia animal model and evaluated the effect of exogenous IL-7 administration. Methods: C3H/HeN mice underwent x-ray irradiation of 30 Gy in 10 fractions at the right hind limbs. Next, 10 mg/kg of IL-7 was injected subcutaneously, and the lymphocyte count in blood was measured. Murine hepatocellular carcinoma (HCa-1) cells were inoculated subcutaneously into the right thighs of tumor model mice, which underwent the same treatment. Results: In the naïve mouse model, the decreased CD45+ cell count after irradiation gradually recovered to the initial level over 3 weeks in the IR group, whereas it markedly increased to 373% of the initial level in 1 week in the IR+IL-7 group. Similar trends were observed for the CD3+, CD8+, CD4+, regulatory T cells, and CD19+ B cell counts. Similar findings were observed in the tumor mouse model. CD8+ and CD4+ T cell infiltration in tumor specimens was higher in the IL-7 and IR+IL-7 groups than in the nontreated and IR groups. Tumor growth was significantly more suppressed in the IR+IL-7 group than in the IR group. The median survival time was significantly longer in the IR+IL-7 group (not reached) than in the IR (56 days; P = .0382), IL-7 (36 days; P = .0004), or nontreated groups (36 days; P < .0001). Conclusions: Administration of exogenous IL-7 after IR not only restored lymphocyte counts but also enhanced the antitumor effect. Exogenous IL-7 can be beneficial in overcoming radiation-induced lymphopenia and in enhancing the treatment outcome in combination with radiation therapy, which needs validation through future clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Genexine Research Fund from Genexine Inc . represented by Dr Young Chul Sung (grant number: 2018-31-1253 ).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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