Therapeutic strategies to remodel immunologically cold tumors

Minyu Wang, Sen Wang, Jayesh Desai, Joseph A. Trapani, Paul J. Neeson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) induce a durable response in a wide range of tumor types, but only a minority of patients outside these ‘responsive’ tumor types respond, with some totally resistant. The primary predictor of intrinsic immune resistance to ICIs is the complete or near-complete absence of lymphocytes from the tumor, so-called immunologically cold tumors. Here, we propose two broad approaches to convert ‘cold’ tumors into ‘hot’ tumors. The first is to induce immunogenic tumor cell death, through the use of oncolytic viruses or bacteria, conventional cancer therapies (e.g. chemotherapy or radiation therapy) or small molecule drugs. The second approach is to target the tumor microenvironment, and covers diverse options such as depleting immune suppressive cells; inhibiting transforming growth factor-beta; remodelling the tumor vasculature or hypoxic environment; strengthening the infiltration and activation of antigen-presenting cells and/or effector T cells in the tumor microenvironment with immune modulators; and enhancing immunogenicity through personalised cancer vaccines. Strategies that successfully modify cold tumors to overcome their resistance to ICIs represent mechanistically driven approaches that will ultimately result in rational combination therapies to extend the clinical benefits of immunotherapy to a broader cancer cohort.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1226
JournalClinical and Translational Immunology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2020


  • cancer immunotherapy
  • cold tumor
  • immune checkpoint inhibitor
  • immune surveillance and resistance
  • therapeutic strategy
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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