Programmed Death-1 Inhibition in Cancer With a Focus on Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Rationale, Nursing Implications, and Patient Management Strategies

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Programmed death-1 (PD-1) immune checkpoint inhibitors are novel immunooncology agents. Unlike chemotherapy or targeted agents, which inhibit tumor cell proliferation or induce tumor cell death, immune checkpoint inhibitors are designed to stimulate a patient's own immune system to eliminate tumors. As a result of their mechanism of action, PD-1 pathway inhibitors are associated with adverse events (AEs) with immunologic etiologies, termed immune-mediated AEs (imAEs). These include skin and gastrointestinal AEs, and endocrine, hepatic, renal, and respiratory AEs, including pneumonitis. Most imAEs can be effectively managed with treatment interruption/discontinuation and/or steroids or other immunosuppressive agents. A specialist consult may be required in some cases, and endocrine imAEs may require permanent hormone replacement therapy.


This article provides an overview of PD-1 inhibitors, including the potential mechanism of action, key clinical trial data, and strategies for managing patients who may receive PD-1 inhibitors for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.


Information in the article comes from PubMed literature searches and the author's experience with these agents in clinical trials.


Oncology clinicians must thoroughly assess baseline functioning and symptoms and be vigilant for imAEs, which require prompt diagnosis and management. A good understanding of the clinical profile of PD-1 pathway inhibitors is instrumental in helping clinicians manage patients receiving these new therapies.

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