Resistance Mechanisms to Immune-Checkpoint Blockade in Cancer: Tumor-Intrinsic and -Extrinsic Factors

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Inhibition of immune regulatory checkpoints, such as CTLA-4 and the PD-1-PD-L1 axis, is at the forefront of immunotherapy for cancers of various histological types. However, such immunotherapies fail to control neoplasia in a significant proportion of patients. Here, we review how a range of cancer-cell-autonomous cues, tumor-microenvironmental factors, and host-related influences might account for the heterogeneous responses and failures often encountered during therapies using immune-checkpoint blockade. Furthermore, we describe the emerging evidence of how the strong interrelationship between the immune system and the host microbiota can determine responses to cancer therapies, and we introduce a concept by which prior or concomitant modulation of the gut microbiome could optimize therapeutic outcomes upon immune-checkpoint blockade.

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