Immune checkpoint blockade therapy (ICBT), which blocks negative immune-activating signals and maintains the antitumor response, has elicited a remarkable clinical response in certain cancer patients. However, intrinsic resistance (i.e., insensitivity of the tumors to therapy) remains a daunting challenge. The efficacy of ICBT is tightly modulated by the function of each step in the antitumor immunity cycle. Mechanistically, the number of mutations determines tumor immunogenicity. The properties of the tumor microenvironment control T-cell infiltration, distribution, and function in tumor tissues. Low tumor immunogenicity and a strong immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment cause significant intrinsic resistance to ICBT. With our evolving understanding of intrinsic resistance, people have successfully tested, in preclinical models, treatments targeting specific resistance mechanisms to sensitize ICBT-resistant tumors. Translation of those preclinical findings to the clinical arena will help generate personalized ICBT strategies that target tumor-specific resistance mechanisms. Progress in the new personalized ICBT strategies will expand the reach of immunotherapy to more cancer types, thus enabling more patients to benefit. Cancer Res; 77(4); 817–22. ©2017 AACR.
- Received September 2, 2016.
- Revision received November 2, 2016.
- Accepted November 7, 2016.
- ©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.