The use of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) in treating cancer has revolutionized the approach to eradicate cancer cells by reactivating immune responses. However, only a subset of patients benefits from this treatment; the majority remains unresponsive or develops resistance to ICI therapy. Increasing evidence suggests that metabolic machinery in the tumor microenvironment (TME) plays a role in the development of ICI resistance. Within the TME, nutrients and oxygen are scarce, forcing immune cells to undergo metabolic reprogramming to adapt to harsh conditions. Cancer-induced metabolic deregulation in immune cells can attenuate their anti-cancer properties, but can also increase their immunosuppressive properties. Therefore, targeting metabolic pathways of immune cells in the TME may strengthen the efficacy of ICIs and prevent ICI resistance. In this review, we discuss the interactions of immune cells and metabolic alterations in the TME. We also discuss current therapies targeting cellular metabolism in combination with ICIs for the treatment of cancer, and provide possible mechanisms behind the cellular metabolic rewiring that may improve clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1258
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Cancer niche
  • Immune checkpoint in-hibitor
  • Immuno-metabolism
  • Immunotherapy
  • Metabolic reprogramming
  • Metabolism
  • Resistance
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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