Lighting Up the Fire in the Microenvironment of Cold Tumors: A Major Challenge to Improve Cancer Immunotherapy

Alice Benoit, Guillaume Vogin, Caroline Duhem, Guy Berchem, Bassam Janji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Immunotherapy includes immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) such as antibodies targeting cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) or the programmed cell death protein/programmed death ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) axis. Experimental and clinical evidence show that immunotherapy based on immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) provides long-term survival benefits to cancer patients in whom other conventional therapies have failed. However, only a minority of patients show high clinical benefits via the use of ICI alone. One of the major factors limiting the clinical benefits to ICI can be attributed to the lack of immune cell infiltration within the tumor microenvironment. Such tumors are classified as “cold/warm” or an immune “desert”; those displaying significant infiltration are considered “hot” or inflamed. This review will provide a brief summary of different tumor properties contributing to the establishment of cold tumors and describe major strategies that could reprogram non-inflamed cold tumors into inflamed hot tumors. More particularly, we will describe how targeting hypoxia can induce metabolic reprogramming that results in improving and extending the benefit of ICI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1787
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2023


  • hypoxia
  • immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • immunotherapy
  • metabolic reprogramming
  • tumor microenvironment


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