Adverse Effects of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (Programmed Death-1 Inhibitors and Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte-Associated Protein-4 Inhibitors): Results of a Retrospective Study

Ravneet Bajwa, Anmol Cheema, Taimoor Khan, Alireza Amirpour, Anju Paul, Saira Chaughtai, Shrinil Patel, Tejas Patel, Joshua Bramson, Varsha Gupta, Michael Levitt, Arif Asif, Mohammad A. Hossain


In recent years the use of immunomodulating therapy to treat various cancers has been on the rise. Three checkpoint inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (ipilimumab, pembrolizumab and nivolumab). The use of these drugs comes with serious adverse events related to excessive immune activation, collectively known as immune-related adverse events (irAEs). We conducted a system-based review of 139 case reports/case series that have described these adverse events between January 2016 and April 2018, found in the PubMed database. There was a broad spectrum of presentations, doses and checkpoint inhibitors used. The most common check point inhibitor observed in our literature review was nivolumab. The most common adverse effects encountered were colitis (14/139), hepatitis (11/139), adrenocorticotropic hormone insufficiency (12/139), hypothyroidism (7/139), type 1 diabetes (22/139), acute kidney injury (16/139) and myocarditis (10/139). The treatment most commonly consisted of cessation of the immune checkpoint inhibitor, initiation of steroids and supportive therapy. This approach provided a complete resolution in a majority of cases; however, there were many that developed long-term adverse events with deaths reported in a few cases. The endocrine system was the mostly commonly affected with the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus or diabetic ketoacidosis being the most frequently reported adverse events. While immunomodulating therapy is a significant advance in the management of various malignancies, it is capable of serious adverse effects. Because the majority of the cases developed pancreatic dysfunction within five cycles of therapy, in addition to the evaluation of other systems, pancreatic function should be closely monitored to minimize adverse impact on patients.

J Clin Med Res. 2019;11(4):225-236


Immunomodulating therapy; Programmed cell death inhibitors; Ipilimumab; Pembrolizumab; Nivolumab; Immunotherapy side effects

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