Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that block the vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFRs) not only disrupt tumor angiogenesis but also have many unexpected side effects that impact tumor cells directly. This includes the induction of molecular markers associated with senescence, a form of cellular aging that typically involves growth arrest. We have shown that VEGFR TKIs can hijack these aging programs by transiently inducting senescence markers (SMs) in tumor cells to activate senescence-associated secretory programs that fuel drug resistance. Here we show that these same senescence-mimicking (“senomimetic”) VEGFR TKI effects drive an enhanced immunogenic signaling that, in turn, can alter tumor response to immunotherapy. By using a live cell sorting method to detect β-galactosidase, a commonly used SM, we found that subpopulations of SM-expressing (SM+) tumor cells have heightened IFN signaling and increased expression of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). These ISGs increase under the control of the STimulator of the INterferon Gene (STING) signaling pathway, which we found could be directly activated by several VEGFR TKIs. TKI-induced SM+ cells could stimulate or suppress CD8 T-cell activation depending on host–tumor cell contact while tumors grown from SM+ cells were more sensitive to PDL1 inhibition in vivo, suggesting that offsetting immune-suppressive functions of SM+ cells can improve TKI efficacy overall. Our findings may explain why some (but not all) VEGFR TKIs improve outcomes when combined with immunotherapy and suggest that exploiting senomimetic drug side effects may help identify TKIs that uniquely “prime” tumors for enhanced sensitivity to PDL1-targeted agents.

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