Hypoxia, or gradients of hypoxia, occurs in most growing solid tumors and may result in pleotropic effects contributing significantly to tumor aggressiveness and therapy resistance. Indeed, the generated hypoxic stress has a strong impact on tumor cell biology. For example, it may contribute to increasing tumor heterogeneity, help cells gain new functional properties and/or select certain cell subpopulations, facilitating the emergence of therapeutic resistant cancer clones, including cancer stem cells coincident with tumor relapse and progression. It controls tumor immunogenicity, immune plasticity, and promotes the differentiation and expansion of immune-suppressive stromal cells. In this context, manipulation of the hypoxic microenvironment may be considered for preventing or reverting the malignant transformation. Here, we review the current knowledge on how hypoxic stress in tumor microenvironments impacts on tumor heterogeneity, plasticity and resistance, with a special interest in the impact on immune resistance and tumor immunogenicity.
Keywords: DNA damage and repair; EMT; HIF; cancer; cancer stem cells; cell plasticity; hypoxia; immune evasion; tumor heterogeneity; tumor microenvironment.