Corticosteroids and Cancer Immunotherapy

Clin Cancer Res. 2023 Jul 14;29(14):2580-2587. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-22-3181.


Despite revolutionizing cancer management, immunotherapies dysregulate the immune system, leading to immune-mediated adverse events. These common and potentially dangerous toxicities are often treated with corticosteroids, which are among the most prescribed drugs in oncology for a wide range of cancer and noncancer indications. While steroids exert several mechanisms to reduce immune activity, immunotherapies, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), are designed to enhance the immune system's inherent antitumor activity. Because ICI requires an intact and robust immune response, the immunosuppressive properties of steroids have led to a widespread concern that they may interfere with antitumor responses. However, the existing data of the effect of systemic steroids on immunotherapy efficacy remain somewhat conflicted and unclear. To inform clinical decision-making and improve outcomes, we review the impact of steroids on antitumor immunity, recent advances in the knowledge of their impact on ICI efficacy in unique populations and settings, associated precautions, and steroid-sparing treatment approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Immunotherapy / adverse effects
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones