Comparative risk of acute kidney injury among cancer patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors

Cancer Commun (Lond). 2022 Dec 17. doi: 10.1002/cac2.12396. Online ahead of print.


With the development and introduction of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in cancer patients, immune-related side effects have increasingly attracted attention. However, the risks of immune-related renal toxicity are poorly characterized. In this study, we performed a network meta-analysis (NMA) of ICI-related randomized clinical trials (RCTs) to elucidate the comparative risk of acute kidney injury (AKI) in cancer patients receiving different ICIs. We also sought to identify other factors potentially affecting the risk of AKI. PubMed and EMBASE were searched for peer-reviewed trial reports published between January 2000 and May 2021. Eligible studies were RCTs studying ICIs in cancer patients and reporting AKI data. We performed a frequentist NMA to evaluate the risk ratios for grade 1-5 and grade 3-5 AKI between the treatment groups. We also assessed the absolute incidence of AKI in the ICI-containing arm using traditional direct meta-analysis. Once significant heterogeneity was detected in a traditional direct meta-analysis, multivariable meta-regression analysis was applied to identify factors that significantly affected the absolute incidence of AKI. A total of 85 RCTs were included in this study. In the NMA for the risk of grade 1-5 and 3-5 AKI, ipilimumab showed a significantly higher risk than avelumab and durvalumab, whereas 1 mg/kg nivolumab plus 3 mg/kg ipilimumab (N1I3) showed a significantly higher risk than other groups. In terms of treatment ranking, durvalumab ± low-dose tremelimumab and avelumab were consistently among the top three safest treatments for grade 1-5 or 3-5 AKI, whereas N1I3, ipilimumab and tremelimumab were consistently among the top three treatments with the highest risk for grade 1-5 or 3-5 AKI. Compared with other cancers, renal cell carcinoma and urothelial carcinoma showed a significantly higher risk of AKI. The incidence of AKI was significantly higher with ICI+chemotherapy than with ICI monotherapy. In this NMA involving large-scale up-to-date ICI trials, we demonstrated the comparative safety of existing ICI drugs for grade 1-5 and grade 3-5 AKI. Based on data from the ICI arms of these trials, we also revealed several potential risk factors for immune-related AKI, including tumor type and treatment paradigm.

Keywords: acute kidney injury; cancer; immune checkpoint inhibitors; immune therapy; side effects.

Publication types

  • Review