Cancer is largely a disease of the tumor cell genome. As a result, the majority of genetics research in oncology has concentrated on the role of tumor somatic mutations, as well as inherited risk variants, in disease susceptibility and response to targeted treatments. The advent and success of cancer immunotherapies, however, have opened new perspectives for the investigation of the role of inherited genetic variation in codetermining outcome and safety. It is increasingly likely that the entirety of germline genetic variation involved in regulating immune responses accounts for a significant fraction of the observed variability in responses to cancer immunotherapies. Although germline genetic data from patients treated with cancer immunotherapies are still scarce, this line of research benefits from a vast body of knowledge derived from studies into autoimmune and infectious disease phenotypes, thus not requiring a start from a blank slate. Here, we discuss how a thorough investigation of genomic variation relevant for individuals’ variability in (auto)immune responses can contribute to the discovery of novel treatment approaches and drug targets, and yield predictive biomarkers to stratify cancer patient populations in precision and personalized medicine settings.

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