Successful treatment of arthritis induced by checkpoint inhibitors with tocilizumab: a case series

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Abstract

Background

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have significantly improved outcomes for patients with numerous cancers. However, these therapies are associated with immune-related adverse events (irAEs), which are inflammatory side effects potentially affecting any organ. Cases of ICI-induced inflammatory arthritis have also been reported. In general, mild irAEs are treated with corticosteroids, while tumour necrosis factor-α (TNFα) inhibitors are reserved for refractory cases. However, prolonged use of TNFα inhibitor (TNFαi) can induce widespread, significant immunosuppression, which can negatively impact the antitumour efficacy of ICI therapy. Therefore, in clinical scenarios where patients develop severe immunotherapy-induced irAEs, an unmet need exists for alternative therapeutic strategies that are effective and without immune dampening effects.

Case reports

The anti-interleukin (IL)−6 receptor antibody, tocilizumab, is a biological agent Food and Drug Administration approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Here, we report on three patients who developed severe polyarthritis while receiving ICI therapy and were treated with tocilizumab. All three patients demonstrated significant clinical improvement; one patient maintained a durable antitumour response derived from checkpoint inhibition.

Conclusions

These three cases suggest that anti-IL-6 receptor antibody may be an effective alternative to corticosteroids or TNFαi for the treatment of arthritis irAEs.

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