From the Journals

Checkpoint inhibitors well tolerated by NSCLC patients with preexisting autoimmune disease

Key clinical point: Patients with non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and preexisting autoimmune disease (AID) tolerate checkpoint inhibitors similarly to patients without preexisting autoimmune disease.

Major finding: Eleven percent of patients with autoimmune disease experienced grade 3 or 4 immune-related adverse events, compared with 7%-15% of patients without autoimmune disease.

Study details: A retrospective study of 56 patients with NSCLC and preexisting autoimmune disease from five academic cancer centers.

Disclosures: The Kaplan Research Fund and Jeni Fund, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center sponsored the study. The researchers reported receiving financial support from Merck, Novartis, Genentech, and other companies.

Source: Leonardi GC et al. J Clin Oncol. 2018 May 20. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.77.0305.



For patients with non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), preexisting autoimmune disease (AID) does not increase the risk of immune-related adverse events (irAEs) with checkpoint inhibitor therapy, according to investigators.

Flares of AID during therapy were generally mild, and toxicity rates were only slightly increased in patients with AID, they wrote in Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Approximately 14%-25% of patients with lung cancer also have AID, but patients with AID are typically excluded from clinical trials. “This presents a tremendous knowledge gap,” wrote lead author Giulia C. Leonardi, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and coauthors.

The retrospective study comprised 56 patients with NSCLC and preexisting autoimmune disease from five academic cancer centers. Almost half of the patients had a rheumatologic disorder, 29% had a dermatologic disorder, 16% had an endocrine disorder, 11% had inflammatory bowel disease, 5% had a neurologic condition, 3% had rheumatic fever, and one patient (2%) had autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

Patients received either a programmed death-1 or programmed death-ligand 1 inhibitor as monotherapy. Median treatment time was 3.1 months, and median follow-up time after starting therapy was 17.5 months.

Eleven percent of patients with preexisting AID developed grade 3 or 4 irAEs, which is similar to 7%-15% of patients in clinical trials. Although 23% of patients experienced a flare of their preexisting AID, these flares were generally mild – no patients discontinued immunotherapy because of a flare. In contrast, 14% of patients halted therapy because of toxicity, a marginally higher number than 3%-8% of patients in trials.

Checkpoint inhibitors are now a mainstay treatment for a lung cancer, including three approved drugs: nivolumab, pembrolizumab, and atezolizumab. “Almost every patient with advanced NSCLC will likely receive a [checkpoint] inhibitor at some point over the course of their disease,” the authors noted. As checkpoint inhibitors may lead to fatal irAEs, the possible interplay between these immunotherapies and AID requires investigation.

“Our study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the use of immunotherapy in patients with cancer with preexisting AID, albeit with close monitoring for adverse events,” the researchers concluded.

SOURCE: Leonardi GC et al. J Clin Oncol. 2018* May 20. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.77.0305.

*Correction, 5/22/18: An earlier version of this article misstated the year in this citation.

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