Safety and efficacy of anti-programmed death 1 antibodies in patients with cancer and pre-existing autoimmune or inflammatory disease

Eur J Cancer. 2018 Mar:91:21-29. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2017.12.008. Epub 2018 Jan 10.


Objective: Patients with autoimmune or inflammatory disease (AID) are susceptible to immune-related adverse events (irAEs) when treated with immune check-point inhibitors (ICIs). We decided to analyse the safety and effectiveness of anti-PD-1 antibodies in AID patients and look for an association between the presence of pre-existing AID and the clinical outcome.

Methods: In a prospective study of the REISAMIC registry of grade ≥2 irAEs occurring in ICI-treated patients, we studied the associations between pre-existing AID on one hand and irAE-free survival, overall survival and best objective response rate on the other.

Results: We identified 45 patients with 53 AIDs in REISAMIC. The cancer diagnoses included melanoma (n = 36), non-small-cell lung cancer (n = 6) and others (n = 3). The most frequent pre-existing AIDs were vitiligo (n = 17), psoriasis (n = 12), thyroiditis (n = 7), Sjögren syndrome (n = 4) and rheumatoid arthritis (n = 2). Twenty patients (44.4%) presented with at least one irAE: eleven of these were associated with a pre-existing AID ('AID flare'). Treatment with anti-PD-1 antibodies was maintained in 15 of the 20 patients with an irAE. The IrAE-free survival time was significantly shorter in AID patients (median: 5.4 months) than in AID-free patients (median: 13 months, p = 2.1 × 10-4). The AID and AID-free groups did not differ significantly with regard to the overall survival time and objective response rate (p = 0.38 and 0.098, respectively).

Conclusion: In patients treated with anti-PD-1 antibody, pre-existing AID was associated with a significantly increased risk of irAEs. Our results indicate that cancer treatments with anti-PD-1 antibodies are just as effective in AID patients as they are in AID-free patients.

Keywords: Anti-PD-1 antibody; Autoimmune disease; Cancer; Immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / mortality
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / immunology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • PDCD1 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor