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