Fatal orthotopic liver transplant organ rejection induced by a checkpoint inhibitor in two patients with refractory, metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma

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Abstract

Although checkpoint inhibitor therapies have demonstrated significant efficacy in many malignancies, they have not been well studied in patients with a history of solid organ transplant. We describe two patients with recurrent, refractory, and progressive advanced fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) following orthotopic liver transplantation who received programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitor, nivolumab, on a patient access, off-label basis. Both rapidly developed irreversible acute liver rejection shortly after starting therapy, and ultimately died. While checkpoint inhibitors clearly have tremendous potential as a targeted therapy, they should be avoided or used with extreme caution in the context of an organ transplant.

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