Background Anti-programmed cell death 1 (PD-1)/programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) show remarkable clinical anti-tumour efficacy. However, rational combinations are needed to extend the clinical benefit to primary resistant tumours. The design of such combinations requires the identification of the kinetics of critical immune cell populations in the tumour microenvironment. Methods In this study, we compared the kinetics of immune cells in the tumour microenvironment upon treatment with immunotherapy combinations with different anti-tumour efficacies in the non-inflamed tumour model TC-1/A9. Tumour-bearing C57BL/6J mice were treated with all possible combinations of a human papillomavirus (HPV) E7 long peptide, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (PIC) and anti-PD-1 mAb. Tumour growth and kinetics of the relevant immune cell populations were assessed over time. The involvement of key immune cells was confirmed by depletion with mAbs and immunophenotyping with multiparametric flow cytometry. Results The maximum anti-tumour efficacy was achieved after intratumoural administration of HPV E7 long peptide and PIC combined with the systemic administration of anti-PD-1 mAb. The intratumoural immune cell kinetics of this combination was characterised by a biphasic immune response. An initial upsurge of proinflammatory myeloid cells led to a further rise in effector CD8(+) T lymphocytes at day 8. Depletion of either myeloid cells or CD8(+) T lymphocytes diminished the anti-tumour efficacy of the combination. Conclusions The anti-tumour efficacy of a successful immunotherapy combination in a non-inflamed tumour model relies on an early inflammatory process that remodels the myeloid cell compartment.