Haematological immune-related adverse events with immune checkpoint inhibitors, how to manage?Eur J Cancer 2019; 122:72-90EJ
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are changing the treatments of many patients with cancer. These immunotherapies are generally better tolerated than chemotherapy, and their adverse events are immune-related mimicking autoimmune or inflammatory conditions. Although these immune-related adverse events mainly affect the skin, endocrine glands, digestive tract, joints, liver or lungs, all the organs can be theoretically affected, and the haematopoietic system is not spared. This review of the literature will focus on the haematological immune-related adverse events (Haem-irAEs). By reviewing the largest clinical trials of ICIs, we estimate the frequency of Haem-irAEs at 3.6% for all grades and 0.7% for grades III-IV. Frequency of Haem-irAEs of all grades was found to be higher with anti-programmed cell death 1 (4.1%) or anti-programmed cell death ligand 1 (4.7%) than with anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (0.5%) (p < 0.0001). From the 63 cases with Haem-irAEs reported in the literature, the mean time to the onset was found to be 10 weeks after ICI initiation, and the large range for occurrence (1-84 weeks) and the regular incidence suggest that Haem-irAEs could occur at any time after ICI therapy. Among the 63 reported cases with Haem-irAEs, the distribution was immune thrombocytopenia (n = 18, 29%), pancytopenia or immune aplastic anaemia (n = 12, 19%), neutropenia (n = 11, 17%), haemolytic anaemia (n = 10, 16%), cytokine release syndrome with haemophagocytic syndrome (n = 7, 11%) and other Haem-irAEs including bicytopenia or pure red cell aplasia (n = 5, 8%). Haem-irAEs are generally highly severe adverse reactions with a mortality rate of Haem-irAEs reported to be 14% (9 deaths among the 63 cases reported). The more severe and life-threatening Haem-irAEs were both cytokine release syndrome with haemophagocytic syndrome and pancytopenia or aplastic anaemia. Haem-irAEs induced by ICIs are potentially life-threatening. By discussing their pathophysiological aspects and clinical picture, we propose in this review clinical guidelines for management.