Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Solid Organ Transplant Recipients With Advanced Skin Cancers-Emerging Strategies for Clinical Management

Transplantation. 2023 Jul 1;107(7):1452-1462. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000004459. Epub 2023 Jun 20.


Use of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in solid organ transplant recipients (SOTRs) with advanced skin cancers presents a significant clinical management dilemma. SOTRs and other immunosuppressed patients have been routinely excluded from ICI clinical trials with good reason: immune checkpoints play an important role in self- and allograft-tolerance and risk of acute allograft rejection reported in retrospective studies affects 10% to 65% of cases. These reports also confirm that cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma respond to ICI therapy, although response rates are generally lower than those observed in immunocompetent populations. Prospective trials are now of critical importance in further establishing ICI efficacy and safety. However, based on current knowledge, we recommend that ICIs should be offered to kidney transplant recipients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, or Merkel cell carcinoma if surgery and/or radiotherapy have failed. For kidney transplant recipients, this should be first line ahead of chemotherapy and targeted therapies. In SOTRs, the use of ICIs should be carefully considered with the benefits of ICIs versus risks of allograft rejection weighed up on a case-by-case basis as part of shared decision-making with patients. In all cases, parallel management of immunosuppression may be key to ICI responsiveness. We recommend maintaining immunosuppression before ICI initiation with a dual immunosuppressive regimen combining mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors and either corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors. Such modification of immunosuppression must be considered in the context of allograft risk (both rejection and also its subsequent treatment) and risk of tumor progression. Ultimately, a multidisciplinary approach should underpin all clinical decision-making in this challenging scenario.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Melanoma* / drug therapy
  • Organ Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Transplant Recipients


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors