Awareness of the importance of immunity in controlling cancer development triggered research into the impact of its key oncogenic drivers on the immune response, as well as their value as targets for immunotherapy. At the heart of tumour suppression is p53, which was discovered in the context of viral infection and now emerges as a significant player in normal and cancer immunity. Wild-type p53 (wt p53) plays fundamental roles in cancer immunity and inflammation. Mutations in p53 not only cripple wt p53 immune functions but also sinisterly subvert the immune function through its neomorphic gain-of-functions (GOFs). The prevalence of mutant p53 across different types of human cancers, which are associated with inflammatory and immune dysfunction, further implicates mutant p53 in modulating cancer immunity, thereby promoting tumorigenesis, metastasis and invasion. In this review, we discuss several mutant p53 immune GOFs in the context of the established roles of wt p53 in regulating and responding to tumour-associated inflammation, and regulating innate and adaptive immunity. We discuss the capacity of mutant p53 to alter the tumour milieu to support immune dysfunction, modulate toll-like receptor (TLR) signalling pathways to disrupt innate immunity and subvert cell-mediated immunity in favour of immune privilege and survival. Furthermore, we expose the potential and challenges associated with mutant p53 as a cancer immunotherapy target and underscore existing therapies that may benefit from inquiry into cancer p53 status.
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