In this review, we discuss the oligometastatic state, with a focus on its current and future relevance within the field of radiation therapy. We first outline the scope of the problem and the evolving understanding of metastatic disease existing along a spectrum. We then transition to a discussion of the clinical data that led to the formulation of the oligometastatic hypothesis, delving in some detail into the clinical factors associated with improved outcomes in the setting of local therapy-whether surgical or radiotherapeutic. In particular, we highlight the marked limitations of using clinical criteria alone to determine the absence or presence of true extracranial oligometastatic disease. After this, we briefly discuss the radiation therapy literature that has recently demonstrated benefits in cancer-specific outcomes with ablative treatment of oligometastatic disease. We emphasize data in the setting of non-small cell lung cancer and prostate cancer and briefly discuss the importance of our enhanced ability to detect occult metastatic disease with improved imaging technologies. After noting that resulted and ongoing prospective trials of ablative radiation therapy use the most rudimentary of oligometastatic classifiers-number of metastases-as their inclusion criteria, we transition to our core argument: a growing body of preclinical and translational work aims to refine the definition of oligometastatic disease using molecular features. We address genomic, epigenetic, and immunologic features that have, across histology, demonstrated an improved ability to prognosticate when combined with classic clinical correlates of oligometastatic disease. We also discuss studies that suggest particular molecular targets which, when manipulated for therapeutic purposes, have the potential to revert the polymetastatic phenotype to the oligometastatic one. We conclude with what we believe are the repercussions of this work for radiation therapy trials and clinical practice, and the importance of enriching and supporting these inquiries for the future of our field.
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