Early use of high-dose-glucocorticoid for the management of irAE is associated with poorer survival in patients with advanced melanoma treated with anti-PD-1 monotherapy

Bai X, Hu J, Betof Warner A, Quach HT, Cann CG, Zhang MZ, Si L, Tang B, Cui C, Yang X, Wei X, Pallan L, Harvey C, Manos MP, Ouyang O, Kim MS, Kasumova G, Cohen JV, Lawrence DP, Freedman C, Fadden RM, Rubin KM, Sharova T, Frederick DT, Flaherty KT, Rahma OE, Long GV, Menzies AM, Guo J, Shoushtari AN, Johnson DB, Sullivan RJ, Boland GM. Clin Cancer Res. (Epub 10 Aug 2021)


Purpose: Programmed cell death receptor-1 (PD-1) inhibitors are frontline therapy in advanced melanoma. Severe immune-related adverse effects (irAEs) often require immunosuppressive treatment with glucocorticoids (GCCs), but GCC use and its correlation with patient survival outcomes during anti-PD-1 monotherapy remains unclear.

Experimental design: In this multicenter retrospective analysis, patients treated with anti-PD-1 monotherapy between 2009 and 2019 and detailed GCC use, data were identified from five independent cohorts, with median follow-up time of 206 weeks. IrAEs were tracked from the initiation of anti-PD-1 until disease progression, initiation of a new therapy, or last follow-up. Correlations between irAEs, GCC use, and survival outcomes were analyzed.

Results: Of the entire cohort of 947 patients, 509 (54%) developed irAEs. In the MGH cohort [irAE(+) n = 90], early-onset irAE (within 8 weeks of anti-PD-1 initiation) with high-dose GCC use (≥60-mg prednisone equivalent once a day) was independently associated with poorer post-irAE PFS/OS (progression-free survival/overall survival) [post-irAE PFS: HR, 5.37; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.10-13.70; P < 0.001; post-irAE OS: HR, 5.95; 95% CI, 2.20-16.09; P < 0.001] compared with irAEs without early high-dose GCC use. These findings were validated in the combined validation cohort [irAE(+) n = 419, post-irAE PFS: HR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.04-2.76; P = 0.04; post-irAE OS: HR, 1.97; 95% CI, 1.15-3.39; P = 0.01]. Similar findings were also observed in the 26-week landmark analysis for post-irAE-PFS but not for post-irAE-OS. A sensitivity analysis using accumulated GCC exposure as the measurement achieved similar results.

Conclusions: Early high-dose GCC use was associated with poorer PFS and OS after irAE onset. Judicious use of GCC early during anti-PD-1 monotherapy should be considered. Further prospective randomized control clinical trials designed to explore alternative irAE management options are warranted.