Association of Acute Interstitial Nephritis With Programmed Cell Death 1 Inhibitor Therapy in Lung Cancer Patients

Am J Kidney Dis. 2016 Aug;68(2):287-291. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2016.02.057. Epub 2016 Apr 22.


Immune checkpoint inhibitors that target the programmed death 1 (PD-1) signaling pathway have recently been approved for use in advanced pretreated non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma. Clinical trial data suggest that these drugs may have adverse effects on the kidney, but these effects have not been well described. We present 6 cases of acute kidney injury in patients with lung cancer who received anti-PD-1 antibodies, with each case displaying evidence of acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) on kidney biopsy. All patients were also treated with other drugs (proton pump inhibitors and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) linked to AIN, but in most cases, use of these drugs long preceded PD-1 inhibitor therapy. The association of AIN with these drugs in our patients raises the possibility that PD-1 inhibitor therapy may release suppression of T-cell immunity that normally permits renal tolerance of drugs known to be associated with AIN.

Keywords: PD-1; PD-1 inhibitor; PDCD1; Programmed cell death 1; acute interstitial nephritis (AIN); acute kidney injury (AKI); advanced melanoma; anti–PD-1 antibody; immune checkpoint inhibitor; ipilimumab; nephrotoxicity; nivolumab; non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); pembrolizumab; renal biopsy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephritis, Interstitial / chemically induced*
  • Nivolumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Nivolumab
  • pembrolizumab