Hypoxia as a potential inducer of immune tolerance, tumor plasticity and a driver of tumor mutational burden: Impact on cancer immunotherapy

Raefa Abou Khouzam, Bassam Janji, Jerome Thiery, Rania Faouzi Zaarour, Ali N. Chamseddine, Hemma Mayr, Pierre Savagner, Claudine Kieda, Sophie Gad, Stéphanie Buart, Jean–Marie –M Lehn, Perparim Limani, Salem Chouaib*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In cancer patients, immune cells are often functionally compromised due to the immunosuppressive features of the tumor microenvironment (TME) which contribute to the failures in cancer therapies. Clinical and experimental evidence indicates that developing tumors adapt to the immunological environment and create a local microenvironment that impairs immune function by inducing immune tolerance and invasion. In this context, microenvironmental hypoxia, which is an established hallmark of solid tumors, significantly contributes to tumor aggressiveness and therapy resistance through the induction of tumor plasticity/heterogeneity and, more importantly, through the differentiation and expansion of immune-suppressive stromal cells. We and others have provided evidence indicating that hypoxia also drives genomic instability in cancer cells and interferes with DNA damage response and repair suggesting that hypoxia could be a potential driver of tumor mutational burden. Here, we reviewed the current knowledge on how hypoxic stress in the TME impacts tumor angiogenesis, heterogeneity, plasticity, and immune resistance, with a special interest in tumor immunogenicity and hypoxia targeting. An integrated understanding of the complexity of the effect of hypoxia on the immune and microenvironmental components could lead to the identification of better adapted and more effective combinational strategies in cancer immunotherapy. Clearly, the discovery and validation of therapeutic targets derived from the hypoxic tumor microenvironment is of major importance and the identification of critical hypoxia-associated pathways could generate targets that are undeniably attractive for combined cancer immunotherapy approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-123
Number of pages20
JournalSeminars in Cancer Biology
Early online date28 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Hypoxia
  • Immune tolerance
  • Immunotherapy
  • Plasticity
  • Tumor microenvironment


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