Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB)-based or natural cancer immune responses largely eliminate tumours. Yet, they require additional mechanisms to arrest those cancer cells that are not rejected. Cytokine-induced senescence (CIS) can stably arrest cancer cells, suggesting that interferon-dependent induction of senescence-inducing cell cycle regulators is needed to control those cancer cells that escape from killing. Here we report in two different cancers sensitive to T cell-mediated rejection, that deletion of the senescence-inducing cell cycle regulators p16Ink4a/p19Arf (Cdkn2a) or p21Cip1 (Cdkn1a) in the tumour cells abrogates both the natural and the ICB-induced cancer immune control. Also in humans, melanoma metastases that progressed rapidly during ICB have losses of senescence-inducing genes and amplifications of senescence inhibitors. Metastatic cells also resist CIS. Such genetic and functional alterations are infrequent in metastatic melanomas regressing during ICB. Thus, activation of tumour-intrinsic, senescence-inducing cell cycle regulators is required to stably arrest cancer cells that escape from eradication.