Immunological Effects of Conventional Chemotherapy and Targeted Anticancer Agents

Cancer Cell. 2015 Dec 14;28(6):690-714. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2015.10.012.


The tremendous clinical success of checkpoint blockers illustrates the potential of reestablishing latent immunosurveillance for cancer therapy. Although largely neglected in the clinical practice, accumulating evidence indicates that the efficacy of conventional and targeted anticancer agents does not only involve direct cytostatic/cytotoxic effects, but also relies on the (re)activation of tumor-targeting immune responses. Chemotherapy can promote such responses by increasing the immunogenicity of malignant cells, or by inhibiting immunosuppressive circuitries that are established by developing neoplasms. These immunological "side" effects of chemotherapy are desirable, and their in-depth comprehension will facilitate the design of novel combinatorial regimens with improved clinical efficacy.

Keywords: checkpoint blockade; immune contexture; immunogenic cell death; natural killer cells; tumor-associated macrophages; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / adverse effects
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Escape / drug effects
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Immunologic Factors