New-onset graves' disease after the initiation of nivolumab therapy for gastric cancer: a case report

BMC Endocr Disord. 2020 Aug 26;20(1):132. doi: 10.1186/s12902-020-00613-5.


Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) can induce immune-related adverse events (irAEs) including thyroid dysfunction. There are only a few reports on Graves' disease induced by ICIs. We report a case of new-onset Graves' disease after the initiation of nivolumab therapy in a patient receiving gastric cancer treatment.

Case presentation: The patient was a 66-year-old Japanese man, who was administered nivolumab (240 mg every 3 weeks) as a third-line therapy for stage IVb gastric cancer. His thyroid function was normal before the initiation of nivolumab therapy. However, he developed thyrotoxicosis before the third administration of nivolumab. Elevated, bilateral, and diffuse uptake of radioactive tracer was observed in the 99mTc-pertechnetate scintigraphy. Furthermore, the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor antibody (TRAb) and thyroid-stimulating antibody (TSAb) test results, which were negative before the first administration of nivolumab, were positive after starting the therapy. The patient was diagnosed with Graves' disease, and the treatment with methimazole and potassium iodide restored thyroid function.

Conclusions: This is the first complete report of a case of new-onset Graves' disease after starting nivolumab therapy, confirmed by diffusely increased thyroid uptake in scintigraphy and the positive conversion of antibodies against thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor. It is important to perform thyroid scintigraphy and ultrasonography to accurately diagnose and treat ICI-induced thyrotoxicosis, because there are various cases in which Graves' disease is developed with negative and positive TRAb titres.

Keywords: 99mTc-pertechnetate scintigraphy; Graves’ disease; Immune checkpoint inhibitor; Nivolumab; Thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor antibody; Thyrotoxicosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Aged
  • Graves Disease / chemically induced*
  • Graves Disease / diagnosis
  • Graves Disease / drug therapy
  • Graves Disease / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Methimazole / administration & dosage
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects*
  • Nivolumab / therapeutic use
  • Potassium Iodide / administration & dosage
  • Remission Induction
  • Stomach Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / physiopathology


  • Potassium Iodide
  • Nivolumab
  • Methimazole