Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia as a Complication of Nivolumab Therapy

Case Rep Oncol. 2016 Nov 7;9(3):691-697. doi: 10.1159/000452296. eCollection 2016 Sep-Dec.


Recently, immunotherapeutic drugs, including PD-1 inhibitors (nivolumab, pembrolizumab), PD-L1 inhibitors (atezolizumab, avelumab), and CTLA4 inhibitors (ipiliumumab), have emerged as important additions to the armamentarium against certain malignancies and have been incorporated into therapeutic protocols for first-, second-, or third-line agents for these metastatic cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab is currently FDA approved for the treatment of patients with metastatic malignant melanoma [Redman et al.: BMC Med 2016;14: 20], metastatic non-small cell lung cancer [Guibert and Mazières: Expert Opin Biol Ther 2015;15: 1789-1797], metastatic renal cell cancer [Farolfi et al.: Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol 2016;12: 1089-1096], and relapsed or refractory classic Hodgkin's lymphoma [Villasboas and Ansell: Expert Rev Anticancer Ther 2016;16: 5-12]. Given the current and increasing indications for these drugs, it is essential for all physicians to become well versed with their common adverse effects and to be observant for other less documented clinical conditions that could be unmasked with the use of such medications. A definite association between autoimmune hemolytic anemia and the immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab has not been clearly documented, although a few cases have been reported recently [Kong et al.: Melanoma Res 2016;26: 202-204; Schwab et al.: Case Rep Oncol 2016;9: 373-378; Tardy et al.: Hematol Oncol 2016, DOI: 10.1002/hon.2338]. We report a case of fatal autoimmune hemolytic anemia refractory to steroids in a patient treated with nivolumab for metastatic lung cancer, and reflect on the other reported cases of autoimmune hemolytic anemia after the use of nivolumab.

Keywords: Autoimmune hemolytic anemia; Immune checkpoint inhibitors; Nivolumab.

Publication types

  • Case Reports