Imaging of Drug-Related Pneumonitis in Oncology

Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2022 Dec;43(6):887-898. doi: 10.1055/s-0042-1755569. Epub 2022 Oct 28.


Clinical applications of novel anticancer agents in the past few decades brought marked advances in cancer treatment, enabling remarkable efficacy and effectiveness; however, these novel agents are also associated with toxicities. Among various toxicities, drug-related pneumonitis is one of the major clinical challenges in the management of cancer patients. Imaging plays a key role in detection, diagnosis, and monitoring of drug-related pneumonitis during cancer treatment. In the current era of precision oncology, pneumonitis from molecular targeted therapy and immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) has been recognized as an event of clinical significance. Additionally, further advances of therapeutic approaches in cancer have brought several emerging issues in diagnosis and monitoring of pneumonitis. This article will describe the computed tomography (CT) pattern-based approach for drug-related pneumonitis that has been utilized to describe the imaging manifestations of pneumonitis from novel cancer therapies. Then, we will discuss pneumonitis from representative agents of precision cancer therapy, including mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors, epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors, and ICI, focusing on the incidence, risk factors, and the spectrum of CT patterns. Finally, the article will address emerging challenges in the diagnosis and monitoring of pneumonitis, including pneumonitis from combination ICI and radiation therapy and from antibody conjugate therapy, as well as the overlapping imaging features of drug-related pneumonitis and coronavirus disease 2019 pneumonia. The review is designed to provide a practical overview of drug-related pneumonitis from cutting-edge cancer therapy with emphasis on the role of imaging.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia* / chemically induced
  • Pneumonia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Precision Medicine
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed