Background Cancer cells subvert natural immunosuppression by upregulating the expression of checkpoint proteins and their ligands. For example, tumor cells expressing programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) induce immune cell tolerance to cancers, thereby facilitating tumor progression. The recent clinical success of immunotherapy, particularly checkpoint blockade, represents a significant advance in cancer therapy. However, many cancers develop resistance to immunotherapies, and the underlying mechanisms and how these might be exploited to overcome resistance still need to be determined. Methods T cell dysfunction, in part caused by chronic T cell receptor stimulation, diminishes the capacity for durable responses to checkpoint blockade. Furthermore, T cell populations are phenotypically and functionally heterogeneous, resulting in varying responses to checkpoint blockade. Recent molecular studies of T cell heterogeneity have shown that checkpoint blockade on its own does not alter the epigenetic landscape of T cells, despite epigenetic changes governing T cell phenotype. Conclusion Here we argue that epigenetic modifiers can be used to prime and sensitize T cells to immunotherapy. Administering epitherapy in conjunction with checkpoint blockade could decrease T cell exhaustion and immunotherapy resistance in many cancer types.