Thyroid dysfunction associated with immunotherapy for patients with cancer

Cancer. 1991 Dec 1;68(11):2384-90. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19911201)68:11<2384::aid-cncr2820681109>;2-a.


The authors performed a prospective study to evaluate thyroid dysfunction in 130 patients with cancer who were receiving interleukin-2 (IL-2)-based immunotherapy. Primary hypothyroidism was the most common abnormality, occurring in 12% of patients before, 38% during, and 23% after immunotherapy. Hyperthyroidism occurred in 1%, 4%, and 7% of patients at those time intervals. Among patients initially euthyroid (n = 111), primary hypothyroidism developed in 32% during and 14% after immunotherapy, persisting a median of 54 days. Three patients required levothyroxine. Hyperthyroidism developed in 2% of patients during immunotherapy and 6% after. Thyroid dysfunction was not a function of sex, diagnosis, type of treatment, or response to immunotherapy. Elevated titers of antithyroglobulin and antithyroid microsomal antibodies were detected after treatment in 9% and 7%, respectively, of all patients without prior antibody abnormalities and did not correlate with response to therapy. The high incidence of therapy-induced thyroid dysfunction suggests that thyroid function should be carefully monitored in all patients receiving IL-2-based immunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / complications
  • Hypothyroidism / etiology
  • Immunotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Interleukin-2 / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thyroid Diseases / etiology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Interleukin-2
  • anti-thyroglobulin
  • thyroid microsomal antibodies