Purpose: Treatment with programmed cell death-1 or programmed death ligand 1 (PD-(L)1) inhibitors is now standard therapy for patients with lung cancer. The immunosuppressive effect of corticosteroids may reduce efficacy of PD-(L)1 blockade. On-treatment corticosteroids for treatment of immune-related adverse events do not seem to affect efficacy, but the potential impact of baseline corticosteroids at the time of treatment initiation is unknown. Clinical trials typically excluded patients who received baseline corticosteroids, which led us to use real-world data to examine the effect of corticosteroids at treatment initiation.
Methods: We identified patients who were PD-(L)1-naïve with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer from two institutions-Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Gustave Roussy Cancer Center-who were treated with single-agent PD-(L)1 blockade. Clinical and pharmacy records were reviewed to identify corticosteroid use at the time of beginning anti-PD-(L)1 therapy. We performed multivariable analyses using Cox proportional hazards regression model and logistic regression.
Results: Ninety (14%) of 640 patients treated with single-agent PD-(L)1 blockade received corticosteroids of ≥ 10 mg of prednisone equivalent daily at the start of the PD-(L)1 blockade. Common indications for corticosteroids were dyspnea (33%), fatigue (21%), and brain metastases (19%). In both independent cohorts, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (n = 455) and Gustave Roussy Cancer Center (n = 185), baseline corticosteroids were associated with decreased overall response rate, progression-free survival, and overall survival with PD-(L)1 blockade. In a multivariable analysis of the pooled population, adjusting for smoking history, performance status, and history of brain metastases, baseline corticosteroids remained significantly associated with decreased progression-free survival (hazard ratio, 1.3; P = .03), and overall survival (hazard ratio, 1.7; P < .001).
Conclusion: Baseline corticosteroid use of ≥ 10 mg of prednisone equivalent was associated with poorer outcome in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who were treated with PD-(L)1 blockade. Prudent use of corticosteroids at the time of initiating PD-(L)1 blockade is recommended.