Whenever radiation therapy is given with curative intent there is the risk of serious damage to normal tissue. This risk increases with the dose of radiation, as does the probability of local tumour control. In the attempt to cure, the doses reach a level that inevitably causes some undesirable adverse effects, ranging from undetectable, or minimal, to unacceptably severe. Over the last few years, a number of reports have suggested that the prediction of normal tissue response after radiotherapy may be achieved by assays on samples withdrawn from the patients prior to treatment, although recent reports have described mixed results. The ability to predict tumour response to anti-hormones in patients with breast cancer has important implications with regard to treatment. Recent discoveries promise to provide individualized treatment options. However, there are no data to support that, used jointly, the combination of radiotherapy and hormone therapy may achieve an enhancement of breast cancer tumour response. Nowadays, development in cancer therapy is increasingly arising out of studies in basic science; its implementation in the hands of clinicians is improving the management of patients with cancer. In addition, as the biological aspects of irradiation and hormonal therapy offer an explanation, at least in part, for the outcome observed in patients with breast cancer after therapy, we have focused this review on trying to analyse the most relevant experimental research about the relative roles of radiotherapy and hormonal therapy, the corresponding side-effects and, taking into account recent advances, future areas of research that we consider of major importance in the field.
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