Abstract | Immunotherapy is currently the most rapidly advancing area of clinical oncology, and provides the unprecedented opportunity to effectively treat, and even cure, several previously untreatable malignancies. A growing awareness exists of the fact that the success of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in which the patient's disease can be stabilized well beyond discontinuation of treatment (and occasionally is cured), also relies on the induction of a durable anticancer immune response. Indeed, the local immune infiltrate undergoes dynamic changes that accompany a shift from a pre-existing immune response to a therapy-induced immune response. As a result, the immune contexture, which is determined by the density, composition, functional state and organization of the leukocyte infiltrate of the tumour, can yield information that is relevant to prognosis, prediction of a treatment response and various other pharmacodynamic parameters. Several complementary technologies can be used to explore the immune contexture of tumours, and to derive biomarkers that could enable the adaptation of individual treatment approaches for each patient, as well as monitoring a response to anticancer therapies.