Hepatotoxicity After Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy in Melanoma: Natural Progression and Management

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To report the clinical features, treatment, and outcomes of patients with immune checkpoint inhibitor-induced hepatotoxicity.

Patients and Methods:

In this retrospective observational study, we identified patients with metastatic malignant melanoma seen in consultation and/or treated between March 2011 and March 2016. Hepatotoxicity was assessed using the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, v4.0.


Seventeen patients were identified as having any degree of hepatotoxicity by history (grade 1 to 4). Twelve of 17 were diagnosed after ipilimumab, 3 of 17 were diagnosed after pembrolizumab, and 2 of 17 after ipilimumab combined with nivolumab. Median time from first dose of immune therapy to hepatotoxicity was 52 days. Clinical symptoms were variable: asymptomatic, fatigue, myalgias, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and/or jaundice. Eight patients had concurrent adverse events including colitis, hypophysitis, pneumonitis, and/or rash. Immune therapy was discontinued in all patients except 3. The patients were most commonly treated with systemic corticosteroids such as prednisone. Immunosuppression was discontinued by taper over a median of 42 days; in 3 patients steroids had to be reinitiated based on clinical or laboratory worsening of liver tests. Normalization of liver tests was seen within a median of 31 days of immunosuppression initiation. One patient with grade 4 hepatotoxicity had normalization with the addition of cyclosporine.


Melanoma patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors should be monitored regularly for hepatotoxicity. Treatment with discontinuation of therapy and initiation of corticosteroids is indicated with grade 3 or 4 hepatotoxicity. Cyclosporine may be beneficial in steroid-refractory hepatotoxicity.

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