Delayed-onset immune-related adverse events involving the thyroid gland by immune checkpoint inhibitors in combination with chemotherapy: a case report and retrospective cohort study

Endocr J. 2023 Mar 28;70(3):323-332. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.EJ22-0467. Epub 2022 Dec 2.


Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) frequently cause immune-related adverse events (irAEs) that often involve endocrine organs. Pembrolizumab and atezolizumab are currently administered in combination with chemotherapy for several malignancies. Although transient thyrotoxicosis within 6 weeks after the first ICI dose is the typical course of thyroid irAEs with ICI monotherapy, we encountered a unique course of a thyroid irAE in a patient who received combination therapy consisting of pembrolizumab plus pemetrexed and carboplatin. Delayed onset of thyrotoxicosis occurred at 22 weeks after the first dose of pembrolizumab. To understand more about this curious event, we conducted a retrospective cohort study of the following groups: pembrolizumab monotherapy (Pem-mono), pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy (Pem-combi), atezolizumab monotherapy (Atezo-mono), and atezolizumab plus chemotherapy (Atezo-combi). There were no differences in the incidence of overt thyroid irAEs: Pem-mono, 12 of 151 patients (7.9%) versus Pem-combi, 4 of 56 patients (7.1%) (p = 0.85) and Atezo-mono, 5 of 27 patients (18.5%) versus Atezo-combi, 5 of 57 patients (8.8%) (p = 0.20). Through detailed analyses of patients with thyrotoxicosis, we found some patients with delayed-onset thyroid irAE, defined as development at 16 weeks or more after the first ICI dose. Delayed-onset thyroid irAEs were only observed in the combination therapy groups: Pem-combi or Atezo-combi, 3 of 8 patients versus Pem-mono or Atezo-mono, 0 of 10 patients. Our observation that thyroid irAE development can be delayed with ICIs when used in combination with chemotherapy suggests longer monitoring of thyroid function is needed to avoid missing irAEs.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; Hypothyroidism; Immune checkpoint inhibitor; Immune-related adverse events; Thyrotoxicosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyrotoxicosis* / chemically induced


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological