Agents targeting programmed cell death 1 (PD-1)/PD ligand 1 (PD-L1) improve long-term survival across many advanced cancers and are now used as adjuvant therapy for resected stage III and IV melanomas. The incidence and spectrum of chronic immune-related adverse events (irAEs) have not been well defined.
To determine the incidence, time course, spectrum, and associations of chronic irAEs arising from adjuvant anti-PD-1 therapy.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This retrospective multicenter cohort study was conducted between 2015 and 2020 across 8 academic medical centers in the United States and Australia. Patients with stage III to IV melanomas treated with anti-PD-1 in the adjuvant setting were included.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Incidence, types, and time course of chronic irAEs (defined as irAEs persisting at least 12 weeks after therapy cessation).
Among 387 patients, the median (range) age was 63 (17-88) years, and 235 (60.7%) were male. Of these patients, 267 (69.0%) had any acute irAE, defined as those arising during treatment with anti-PD-1, including 52 (19.5%) with grades 3 through 5 events; 1 patient each had fatal myocarditis and neurotoxicity. Chronic irAEs, defined as those that persisted beyond 12 weeks of anti-PD-1 discontinuation, developed in 167 (43.2%) patients, of which most (n = 161; 96.4%) were mild (grade 1 or 2) and most persisted until last available follow-up (n = 143; 85.6%). Endocrinopathies (73 of 88; 83.0%), arthritis (22 of 45; 48.9%), xerostomia (9 of 17; 52.9%), neurotoxicities (11 of 15; 73.3%), and ocular events (5 of 8; 62.5%) were particularly likely to become chronic. In contrast, irAEs affecting visceral organs (liver, colon, lungs, kidneys) had much lower rates of becoming chronic irAEs; for example, colitis became chronic in 6 of 44 (13.6%) cases, of which 4 of 6 (66.7%) resolved with prolonged follow-up. Age, gender, time of onset, and need for steroids were not associated with the likelihood of chronicity of irAEs.
Conclusion and Relevance
In this multicenter cohort study, chronic irAEs associated with anti-PD-1 therapy appear to be more common than previously recognized and frequently persisted even with prolonged follow-up, although most were low grade. The risks of chronic irAEs should be integrated into treatment decision-making.