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Both malignant and stromal components in tumors are influenced by the physiologic conditions of the microenvironment. Hypoxia is a prominent feature of solid tumors as a result of defective vascularization and intense metabolic activity. The gene-expression control mechanisms that adapt tissues to hypoxia are exploited by tumors to promote angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. The functions of infiltrating immune cells (macrophages and lymphocytes) and other stromal components are also influenced by a limited O(2) supply. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) are the main molecular transcriptional mediators in the hypoxia response. The degradation and activity of HIF-1α and HIF-2α are tightly controlled by the fine-tuned action of oxygen-sensing prolyl and asparaginyl hydroxylase enzymes. Recent evidence indicates that hypoxia can modulate the differentiation and function of T lymphocytes and myeloid cells, skewing their cytokine-production profiles and modifying the expression of costimulatory receptors. This conceivably includes tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. Hypoxia not only directly affects tumor-infiltrating leukocytes but also exerts effects on tumor cells and vascular cells that indirectly cause selective chemokine-mediated recruitment of suppressive and proangiogenic T-cell subsets. This review focuses on changes induced by hypoxia in immune cells infiltrating solid malignancies. Such changes may either promote or fight cancer, and thus are important for immunotherapy.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research

Publication Date





1207 - 1213


Center for Applied Medical Research, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.


T-Lymphocytes, Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating, Animals, Humans, Neoplasms, Immunotherapy, Signal Transduction, Cell Hypoxia, Translational Research, Biomedical