Recently, the focus of enhancing tumor radiosensitivity has shifted from chemotherapeutics to targeted therapies. Cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) inhibitors are a novel class of selective cell cycle therapeutics that target the cyclin D-CDK4/6 complex and induce G1 phase arrest. These agents have demonstrated favorable effects when used as monotherapy or combined with endocrine therapy and targeted inhibitors, stimulating further explorations of other combination strategies. Multiple preclinical studies have indicated that CDK4/6 inhibitors exhibit a synergistic effect with radiotherapy both in vitro and in vivo. The principal mechanisms of radiosensitization effects include inhibition of DNA damage repair, enhancement of apoptosis, and blockade of cell cycle progression, which provide the rationale for clinical use. CDK4/6 inhibitors also induce cellular senescence and promote anti-tumor immunity, which might represent potential mechanisms for radiosensitization. Several small sample clinical studies have preliminarily indicated that the combination of CDK4/6 inhibitors and radiotherapy exhibited well-tolerated toxicity and promising efficacy. However, most clinical trials in combined therapy remain in the recruitment stage. Further work is required to seek optimal radiotherapy-drug combinations. In this review, we describe the effects and underlying mechanisms of CDK4/6 inhibitors as a radiosensitizer and discuss previous clinical studies to evaluate the prospects and challenges of this combination.
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