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Journal of clinical oncology, ISSN 1527-7755, 06/2003, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp. 2397 - 2406
Journal Article
by AUTHORS and Chandni Ravi and Maureen Gang and PEER REVIEWER and Steven M Winograd, MD and The keys to identifying toxicity from checkpoint inhibitor therapy are knowing the patient has received such therapy and connecting the various symptoms and signs to one cause The toxicity from checkpoint inhibitor therapy resembles autoimmune disorders, with skin, intestinal, endocrine, and pulmonary manifestations appearing in that sequence Toxicity from adoptive cell therapy can produce the cytokine release syndrome, causing patients to present with fever, tachycardia, hypotension, and multi-organ failure The febrile neutropenic patient should be evaluated carefully for an occult bacterial infection and managed with the expectation of empiric broad-spectrum antibiotics initiated in the emergency department Scoring systems to identify low-risk patients with febrile neutropenia have not yet been prospectively validated for patients presenting to the emergency department Early consultation with the patient’s oncologist can be helpful in directing the assessment and disposition of patients with cancer therapy-related toxicity ------------ Cancer therapy has been an area of constant discovery and evolution over the past two centuries, with innovative therapeutic strategies being developed as understanding of the underlying biologic processes increases This has led to an expansion of treatment options in recent years with newer, more effective, and better-tolerated alternatives developed seemingly daily Until the early 20th century, surgical excision of tumors remained the mainstay of cancer therapy Perhaps the most influential individual to have shaped the surgical approach to cancer was William Halstead (1852-1922) through his advocacy for the en bloc resection of the tumors and enough surrounding tissue to remove all the cancer cells However, this approach was useful only for solid tumors that had not spread beyond their site of origin With the discoveries of X-rays by Roentgen and radium by Pierre and Marie Curie, radiation therapy was introduced as a second modality to combat cancer1 Nitrogen mustard, used during the first World War as an agent of chemical warfare, was noted to have destructive effects on white blood cells, and subsequently was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a chemotherapeutic agent against Hodgkin lymphoma2 This marked the advent of cancer chemotherapy as an adjuvant to surgery and radiation Successful trials involving Hodgkin lymphoma and childhood leukemia using regimens such as MOPP (nitrogen mustard, vincristine, procarbazine, prednisone) and prednisone with 6-MP (6-mercaptopurine) introduced the concepts of combination chemotherapy in the 1960s3,4 For the next several decades, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy would remain the mainstays of cancer therapy In recent years, a paradigm shift has occurred in cancer therapeutics A vast number of newer treatment modalities are being used today, including targeted therapies, cancer vaccines, and, most recently, immunotherapy Since 2006, the FDA has approved more than 130 new cancer drugs and indications for their use5 Such major improvements in the ability to fight cancer have led to a 27% decline in death rates and increased five-year survival rates Two-thirds of people diagnosed with cancer live at least five years after diagnosis The projected population living with a cancer diagnosis is expected to grow to nearly 26 million by 2040, with 73% of survivors 65 years of age or older5,6 In turn, this increase in survivors will increase the number of emergency department (ED) visits of patients experiencing both acute and chronic complications related to cancer therapy Although emergency providers are familiar with the adverse effects of older therapies, such as neutropenic fever and tumor lysis syndrome, the rapidly changing landscape of cancer therapy requires providers not only to keep abreast of treatment guidelines for these better-known complications, but also to familiarize themselves with the newer modalities and their associated toxicities and treatment options Newer Strategies in Cancer Treatment Immuno-oncology currently is perhaps the most exciting area in cancer research and has created a paradigm shift in the management of cancer Immunotherapy works by potentiating the patient’s immune response to tumor cells, as opposed to traditional modalities that target the tumor directly7,8 Several classes of immunological agents have been developed or are being studied currently These agents include immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), targeted therapies, adoptive cell immunotherapy, and cancer vaccines Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors By evading the intrinsic immune checkpoints, cancer cells can escape the immune mechanism that is supposed to eliminate the cells expressing tumor antigens9 Immune checkpoints are comprised of multiple pathways that regulate crucial steps of T-cell mediated immunity to maintain tolerance to self-antigens and prevent autoimmunity10 These pathways are initiated primarily through T-cell inhibiting and stimulating receptors and their ligands, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4), programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) protein, and programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1)7 The upregulation of CTLA-4 or PD-1 by some tumors can suppress the immune system in fighting disease by putting brakes on T cells By acting against these receptors, checkpoint inhibitors block the immune evasion by cancer cells and encourage their destruction by the host immune system11,12 Immune checkpoint inhibitors became an area of great interest over the past decade following clinical trials demonstrating improved survival in advanced melanoma patients Previously there was no approved therapy for advanced melanoma The first agent to be studied and approved by the FDA was the anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody ipilimumab13,14 Next to emerge were antibodies against PD-1 or its ligand PD-L1, which resulted in long-term responses and minimal side effects in patients with several types of cancer, including melanoma and lung, kidney, bladder, and triple-negative breast cancer and and chemotherapy-refractory Hodgkin disease11,12 Anti-PD-1 therapy was found to be superior to standard-of-care chemotherapy as well as CTLA-4 inhibition in some cases In 2014, the FDA approved pembrolizumab and nivolumab, two drugs in this class15 Several ICIs, which are approved for use in a variety of cancers, have emerged as a result of the rapid pace of ongoing research (See Table 1) A combination of CTLA-4 and PD-1 inhibitors has been associated with more favorable outcomes than with either monotherapy, leading to the development of various combination therapies15-17 In addition to cancer, researchers also are studying ICIs for their potential role in the treatment of HIV19,20 and autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes21 Emergency providers will be more likely to encounter patients receiving checkpoint inhibition therapy in the future given the growing expansion of indications for its use Mechanism of Action of Anti-CTLA-4 and Anti-PD-1 Agents An APC presents a foreign or perceived non-self-peptide fragment via its MHC, which binds and stimulates a TCR Activation of the TCR leads to expression of CTLA-4, which binds with a greater affinity to CD80/86 and promotes self-tolerance and prevents autoimmunity in normal conditions The anti-CTLA-4 therapies inhibit this co-inhibitory pathway and lead to enhanced T-cell stimulation and tumor surveillance On the right side of the figure, a similar mechanism is seen for the anti-PD-1/PD-L1 agents PD-L1 is expressed on cancer cells (among others) and also inhibits T-cell activation when binding to the PD-1 expressed on the surface of the T cell Anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment leads to the inhibition of this inhibitory pathway and leads to enhanced T-cell activity against tumors APC = antigen presenting cell and MHC = major histocompatibility complex and TCR = T-cell receptor Reprinted with permission from: Hryniewicki AT, Wang C, Shatsky RA, Coyne CJ Management of immune checkpoint inhibitor toxicities: A review and clinical guideline for emergency physicians J Emerg Med 2018 and 55:489-502 Drug Class Drug Name Indication CTLA-4 Inhibitor Ipilimumab Advanced melanoma, melanoma after surgery PD-1 Inhibitor Nivolumab Hodgkin lymphoma, HNSCC, advanced lung cancer, metastatic renal cell cancer, advanced melanoma, high microsatellite instability tumors, Merkel cell carcinoma Pembrolizumab Recurrent/metastatic HNSCC, metastatic NSCLC, advanced melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma PD-L1 Inhibitor Atezolizumab Melanoma, HNSCC, renal cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, high microsatellite instability tumors, Merkel cell carcinoma, metastatic NSCLC, urothelial carcinoma Durvalumab Melanoma, HNSCC, renal cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, high microsatellite instability tumors, Merkel cell carcinoma Avelumab Melanoma, HNSCC, renal cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, high microsatellite instability tumors HNSCC = head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, NSCLC = non-small cell lung cancer Toxicity Related to Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy ICIs have improved the treatment of various cancers significantly by producing effective antitumor responses However, because of their blockade of down regulators of the immune system, they can be associated with unique immune-related adverse events (IRAEs) IRAEs commonly are seen in up to 90% of patients receiving CTLA-4 inhibitors and up to 70% of patients receiving anti-PD-1/PD-L1 agents22 The recently approved combination therapy of ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) with nivolumab (PD-1 inhibitor) is associated with a more severe adverse effect profile than with either individual agent23 IRAEs comprise a wide range of toxicities that can closely resemble autoimmune disease Several features distinguish the toxicity profiles of IRAEs from those of conventional chemotherapy or targeted therapy IRAEs potentially can involve every organ system in the body They also can cause long-term effects that may present in a delayed manner months to years following the discontinuation of checkpoint inhibitor therapy (See Table 2) Simultaneous Multiple types of IRAEs can occur at the same time Heterochronus IRAEs emerge one after the other in varying intervals Persistent IRAEs can occur months to years after cessation of treatment Association with response Patients with IRAEs have demonstrated greater clinical benefits and overall survival compared to those without IRAEs IRAE = Immune-related adverse event These features make it challenging to manage the complications arising from immune checkpoint therapy in the ED because most providers may not be familiar with their presentation or have access to patients’ medical history In a recent study, researchers found that one-fourth of ED visits by cancer patients at a comprehensive cancer center were related to IRAEs24 Immune checkpoint therapy usually can be continued with close monitoring in the presence of mild IRAEs, while moderate to severe reactions may be associated with organ dysfunction and death, emphasizing the significance of prompt recognition of these adverse effects by emergency providers The gastrointestinal, dermatological, endocrine, and pulmonary systems typically are involved in IRAEs, while involvement of the cardiovascular, renal, musculoskeletal, hematologic, neurological, and ocular systems has been reported less frequently18,23,26,27 (See Table 3) Organ Manifestations Neurologic Aseptic meningitis, encephalitis, transverse myelitis Ocular Uveitis, iritis, epscleritis, blepharitis Hematologic Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura/immune thrombocytopenia, lymphopenia, acquired hemophilia Dermatologic Inflammatory dermatitis, bullous dermtoses, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) syndrome Endocrine Hypophysitis, primary hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, primary adrenal insufficiency Renal Nephritis Cardiovascular Myocarditis, pericarditis, arrhythmias, heart failure, vasculitis Gastrointestinal Diarrhea, colitis, hepatitis Musculoskeletal Inflammatory arthritis, polymyalgia, myositis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barre Respiratory Pneumonitis The kinetics of IRAE onset follow a predictable pattern Dermatologic toxicities appear first, followed by colitis after one to three doses of ICIs Autoimmune hepatitis and endocrinopathies occur late in the treatment course and at times can be seen as late as 24 weeks after treatment28 Reactions to ICIs are graded by severity, with grades 1 and 2 signifying mild severity, and grades 3 and 4 indicating more significant toxicity Grade 5 refers to death related to the adverse event29 (See Table 4) Severity Grade (CTCAE) Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade definition Asymptomatic or mild symptoms Moderate and limiting ADL Severe but not immediately life-threatening Life-threatening consequences Type of care Ambulatory Ambulatory Hospitalization Hospitalization and consider ICU Checkpoint inhibitor Continue with close monitoring Continue if dermatologic or endocrine, suspend if other Suspend, resume based on risk vs benefit Discontinue permanently Common IRAEs and Their Management Dermatitis Diffuse rash < 10% BSA, mild pruritis Maculopapular rash 10% to 30% BSA, intense pruritis Maculopapular rash > 30% BSA with bullae, ulceration, or hemorrhage, SJS/TEN Management Oral antihistamine, topical steroid Topical steroid and oral antihistamine, consider systemic steroid Systemic steroids – Prednisone 05 to 1 mg/kg/day Oral antihistamine, GABA-agonist Monitor for progression to SCAR Diarrhea and colitis Asymptomatic or < 4 to 6 stools/day Abdominal pain, blood in stool Severe abdominal pain, ileus, fever Peritoneal signs, bowel perforation > 7 stools/day, incontinence, IV hydration Management Observation Prednisone oral 1 to 2 mg/kg/day Prednisone IV 1 to 2 mg/kg/day, prophylaxis antibiotic, GI/surgery consult Endocrinopathy Asymptomatic or mild, lab finding Signs of endocrine dysfunction, IRAE requiring urgent medical intervention Suspicion of adrenal crisis, severe headache, visual field cut Management No intervention Endocrinology consult Hypophysitis: MRI pituitary – prednisone 1 to 2 mg/kg/day if abnormal, hormone replacement Central adrenal insufficiency: hydrocortisone 100 mg IV Central hypothyroidism: levothyroxine 1 mg/kg Hyperthyroidism: Graves’ disease guidelines Type 1 diabetes: Start insulin, assess for DKA Rule out sepsis, prednisone 1 mg/kg/day, ICU management of adrenal crisis Pneumonitis Asymptomatic to mild symptoms Symptomatic, limiting ADLs, mild hypoxia Severe symptoms, worsening hypoxia Management Monitor, O2 sat, low threshold for imaging Pulmonary and infectious disease consults Prednisone 1 mg/kg/day Prophylactic antibiotics, admit Pulmonary consult and infectious disease consults Methylprednisolone IV 2 mg/kg/day infliximab, cyclophosphamide, IVIG, or mycophenolate for severe symptoms, ICU admission Prophylactic antibiotics Hepatitis AST, ALT > ULN to 3 x ULN (or) T Bili > ULN to 15 x ULN AST, ALT > 3 x to 5 x ULN (or) T Bili 15 x to 3 x ULN AST, ALT > 5 x ULN (or) T Bili > 3 x ULN Management Rule out other drug-induced liver injury, infectious, malignant, thrombotic Close follow-up Rule out other etiologies Start prednisone 05 to 1 mg/kg/day Prednisone 1 to 2 mg/kg/day Consider prophylactic antibiotics Consult GI CTCAE = common terminology criteria for adverse events and ICU = Intensive care unit and BSA = body surface area and GI = gastroenterology and ADL = activities of daily living and SJS = Stevens-Johnson syndrome and TEN = toxic epidermal necrolysis and SCAR = severe cutaneous adverse reaction and IV = intravenous and IVIG = intravenous immunoglobulin and ULN = upper limit of normal and AST = aspartate aminotransferase and ALT = alanine aminotransferase and LFT = liver function test and T Bili = total bilirubin Dermatologic Toxicities Dermatologic toxicities are the earliest and most commonly seen IRAEs from both CTLA-4 and PD-1/ PD-L1 inhibitor therapy30 Although symptoms such as a maculopapular rash, vitiligo, lichenoid reactions, eczema, or pruritis often can be mild, they still can be dose-limiting and therefore may limit the efficacy of the treatment regimen The development of serious skin toxicities, such as severe rash with eosinophilia to Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis, has been reported in about 4% of patients18 Cutaneous sarcoidosis and Sweet syndrome (acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis) have been reported Mucosal involvement, including dry eyes, dry mouth, and mucositis, has been noted with PD-1 agents30 Grade 1 and 2 dermatitis can be managed with topical emollients, topical or oral glucocorticoids, and oral antihistamines Grade 3 and 4 dermatitis is managed with oral corticosteroids Gastrointestinal Toxicities Gastrointestinal adverse events typically present as diarrhea or in a more severe form as colitis These effects occur more commonly with ipilimumab (a CTLA-4 inhibitor) than with anti-PD-1 agents22 Identifying severe forms of colitis is crucial, given that diarrhea is a very common IRAE associated with ipilimumab, with nearly 30% to 40% of patients receiving the drug developing this complaint13 The emergency provider needs to assess the patient carefully and perform necessary investigations, including computed tomography (CT) imaging if needed, to determine the etiology of the diarrhea Serious forms of colitis, including small bowel obstruction, diverticulitis, enterocolitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and perforation, can occur In some instances, colitis with CTLA-4 inhibitors can present like Crohn’s disease with ulcerations and granulomas22 Testing for Clostridium difficile and cytomegalovirus is recommended in cases of severe diarrhea and abdominal pain31 Treatment of grade 1-2 colitis ranges from supportive care to oral corticosteroids, with high-dose intravenous steroids reserved for more severe cases If the patient appears unstable or critically ill, there should be a low threshold to initiate treatment with the anti-TNF-alpha agent infliximab18,22,33 Infliximab also should be started in patients with colitis without a response to high-dose corticosteroids within three days or in those who experience a relapse of symptoms during a steroid taper28 Hepatic Dysfunction Hepatic dysfunction caused by ICIs usually is asymptomatic and is detected during routine laboratory testing as an elevation in aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) Severe grade 3 hepatitis is rare among patients being treated with a single ICI, but it can be seen in about 14% of patients using combination therapy Management involves corticosteroid administration In severe cases that do not respond to steroids, mycophenolate may be administered, as infliximab has the potential to worsen hepatotoxicity18 Endocrine Toxicities Endocrine toxicities associated with checkpoint inhibitor therapy account for about 10% of IRAEs They are unique because they can be permanent, as in cases of adrenal insufficiency, or transient They also can precipitate underlying chronic endocrinopathies and require long-term treatment for months to years after discontinuation of the offending agent18,28,30 Thyroid disorders and hypophysitis comprise the majority of endocrine IRAEs Adrenal insufficiency, type 1 diabetes, and hypercalcemia are observed less commonly Hypophysitis is a condition in which either the pituitary gland or its stalk is inflamed It can result in hypopituitarism with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, and central adrenal insufficiency Hypophysitis usually develops about two to four months after initiation of checkpoint inhibitor treatment and occurs in 10% to 17% of patients taking ipilimumab18 Undiagnosed hypophysitis may be fatal It can present with vague symptoms, such as anorexia, insomnia, headache, nausea, fatigue, and decreased libido Because of these nonspecific symptoms, a high index of clinical suspicion is needed to prevent this life-threatening complication of treatment The diagnosis can be made with laboratory markers for hypopituitarism, such as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), or with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which will demonstrate pituitary enlargement or thickening of the pituitary stalk Hypothyroidism is seen in about 4% of patients receiving PD-1/PD-L1 treatment Hyperthyroidism also may occur but is associated more with CTLA-4 inhibitors Cancer patients receiving checkpoint blockade therapy may present to the ED with thyrotoxicosis, diabetic ketoacidosis, or acute adrenal insufficiency34 The approach to the management of these conditions depends on the underlying endocrinopathy Hyperthyroidism is treated with thyroid suppressive medications, such as methimazole, propylthiouracil, steroids, and beta-blockers Acute adrenal insufficiency requires prompt initiation of intravenous steroids Diabetic ketoacidosis is managed with insulin and hypothyroidism with hormone replacement Respiratory Adverse Effects Respiratory adverse events present as pneumonitis Although the incidence of pneumonitis is relatively low, it is associated with a higher mortality than other IRAEs and can be refractory to steroids in some cases Risk factors include combination immunotherapy and pulmonary comorbidities30 Since several ICIs are approved for the treatment of lung cancer, adverse events are observed more frequently in this group given the presence of underlying lung disease35-37 Signs and symptoms of pneumonitis include dry persistent cough, dyspnea, fever, fine inspiratory crackles, and chest pain Patients may deteriorate rapidly even with grade 1 symptoms and therefore, clinicians should have a low threshold to obtain CT imaging and admit the patient Pneumonitis may be observed on a chest CT as new pulmonary infiltrates or ground-glass opacities Providers should consider the possibility of other differential diagnoses, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute interstitial pneumonia, pulmonary edema, or tumor progression, that can present with similar symptoms and CT findings38 ICI-induced pneumonitis is managed by supportive measures such as oxygen administration followed by high-dose corticosteroids and infliximab based on the grade of presentation Mycophenolate should be considered for pneumonitis that is severe, life-threatening, or refractory to initial therapy18,33 Other Toxicities Cardiac IRAEs include myocarditis, pericarditis, arrhythmias, and heart failure26 Immediate and permanent discontinuation of ICIs is recommended with any cardiac IRAE, even those that are grade 132 Neurological manifestations may range from Bell’s palsy to encephalopathy, transverse myelitis, and aseptic meningitis Renal injury presents as tubulointerstitial nephritis within three months following the initiation of CTLA-4 therapy Nephritis associated with PD-1 inhibitors often is late in onset, three to 10 months after treatment initiation39 Renal IRAEs usually are reversible with corticosteroids and require dialysis only in rare cases Ocular involvement is rare and includes dry eyes, episcleritis, conjunctivitis, and uveitis Topical steroid drops usually are sufficient to treat most ocular IRAEs40 Hematologic IRAEs present as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, or acquired hemophilia Cellular Immunotherapy: Adoptive Cell Transfer A major principle of the immunologic treatment of cancer is to attack the cancer cell with activated T-lymphocytes Cellular immunotherapy involves the administration of tumor-reactive T-cells These cells can be created in two ways The first approach is to harvest and then grow tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, which then are administered back to the patient This approach is used in melanoma and some other cancers The second approach is to create chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T-cells (CAR-T) by introducing tumor-specific receptors into the patient’s T-lymphocytes harvested from peripheral blood These chimeric cells then are grown before administration Patients are given chemotherapy to achieve leukoreduction or depletion of their own white blood cells so that the adminstered CAR-T cells have less interference when attacking the tumor cells These tumor-reactive T-cells then function by eliciting a graft-versus-tumor response41 The use of activated, tumor-reactive T cells has produced favorable outcomes in metastatic cancers such as B-cell lymphoma, melanoma, cervical cancer, and synovial sarcoma28 The use of a preparative chemotherapy regimen results in neutropenia and thrombocytopenia, placing patients at risk for developing bleeding and sepsis Cytokine-release syndrome (CRS) and tumor lysis syndrome are other common complications of CAR-T therapy These require expert management and often can be lethal CRS, also known as cytokine storm, is the massive release of cytokines resulting in severe systemic inflammation CRS has many features similar to sepsis, including fever, tachycardia, hypotension, and multi-organ failure Supportive care with intravenous fluids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, empiric antibiotics, and vasopressors, if needed, is recommended Autoimmunity may occur due to anti-CD 19 CAR-T cells in the treatment of B-cell lymphoma This results in loss of noncancerous B-cells as well Intravenous immunoglobulin may be required in B-cell-depleted patients presenting with infections Another peculiar complication noted from CAR-T therapy is cross-reactivity with non-tumor antigens resulting in off-target toxicities against healthy tissues and organs Irreversible central nervous system injury and fatal cardiac toxicity are among the reported cross-reactions28 At present, more than 100 clinical trials utilizing CAR-Ts for a variety of hematological malignancies and solid tumors are registered41 Undoubtedly, more protocols employing adoptive cell transfer for more indications will come into use in the near future, making it necessary for providers to familiarize themselves with these agents and the unique complications as a result of this therapy Cellular Immunotherapy: Cancer Vaccines Dendritic cell or vaccine therapy provokes antitumor responses by causing dendritic cells to present tumor antigens to lymphocytes, which primes them to kill other cells that present the same tumor antigen Sipuleucel-T is the only vaccine available currently It has been approved for use in metastatic prostate cancer Vaccines generally are associated with minimal toxicity, even when used in combination with checkpoint inhibitors42 Vaccines can produce transient chills, fever, and fatigue the first day following an injection Back pain and chills also can be observed but generally are self-limited and resolve within 24 to 48 hours following vaccine administration Cytokines: IFN and IL-2 Recombinant human interferon alfa (IFN) is used in the treatment of hairy cell leukemia and resected high-risk melanoma High doses of the cytokine interleukin-2 (IL-2) produced durable antitumor responses in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma and melanoma Both agents are associated with frequent and severe adverse effects Constitutional symptoms such as fatigue and myalgias are seen most commonly Severe fatigue may require a treatment hiatus and dose reduction Neuropsychiatric adverse effects can be debilitating Up to 10% of patients experience confusion and up to 45% report depression Such patients presenting to the ED with florid psychosis or suicidality often provide a limited history, thus emphasizing the need for collateral history including a list of medications from family members or other sources, particularly in the presence of serious comorbid illnesses Gastrointestinal adverse effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, and anorexia, are seen in one-third of patients Collectively, these can lead to significant weight loss Hepatic toxicity also is observed Cytokine therapy should be withheld in patients with AST or ALT levels greater than five times the upper limit of normal Thrombocytopenia, hemolytic anemia, and leukopenia also can occur As with ICIs, cytokine-related hypothyroidism typically is preceded by hyperthyroidism28 Patients with new mediastinal lymphadenopathy during IFN therapy should be evaluated for sarcoidosis Interleukin-2 induces fluid retention due to increased vascular permeability This can present as pulmonary edema, hypotension, or prerenal azotemia Thrombocytopenia, anemia, coagulopathy, or inhibition of neutrophil chemotaxis can lead to an increased susceptibility to infection In the first week of therapy, rare cases of myocarditis have been observed and these cases usually resolve in a few days without sequelae It may mimic acute coronary syndrome with acute chest pain or shortness of breath and elevated troponins Telemetry and cardiac enzymes need to be monitored in these cases High level of suspicion that new symptoms are treatment-related Close communication with oncologist regarding patient’s ED visits Grade 1 – continue drug, topical therapy/symptomatic relief if needed, no systemic steroids Grade 2 – hold ICIs and oral steroids may be administered Grade 3 or 4 – initiate intravenous systemic steroids in the ED, consult oncologist Rare cases not responding to steroids may need infliximab or mycophenolate Most patients with cancer still receive more traditional chemotherapeutic agents as frontline care Emergency medicine physicians must remain current on how to manage the complications from treatment with these agents Most chemotherapeutic agents impair neutrophil production, often producing neutopenia and increasing the risk for infection Infection in the neutropenic patient may not produce the symptoms and signs commonly seen in otherwise healthy patients and fever may be the only finding of infection in the neutropenic patient43 Febrile neutropenia is defined as a single oral temperature of greater than 383° C (101° F) or a sustained temperature of greater than 38° C (1004° F) for one hour in a patient who has an absolute neutrophil count of less than 500 cells/mL44 Although only 40% to 50% of patients with febrile neutropenia subsequently are found to have an infectious etiology for the fever, it is imperative to consider antibiotic administration in a timely and judicious fashion for these vulnerable patients43 In 2013, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued guidelines for antibiotic treatment of patients with febrile neutropenia, as well as guidelines to assist in the identification of patients who might be candidates for either in-hospital or outpatient antibiotic therapy44 Updated guidelines published in 2018 recommend initial monotherapy with anti-pseudomonal coverage for all patients, with vancomycin added only for skin or soft tissue infections, pneumonia, suspected catheter-related infections, or hemodynamic instability Modifications of this treatment regimen should be considered for patients with a prior history of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)–producing gram-negative bacteria, and carbapenemase-producing organisms or vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)45 Scoring systems, such as the Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer score (MASCC) and the Clinical Index of Stable Febrile Neutropenia (CISNE) score, have been validated in the outpatient hematology/oncology clinic setting and the inpatient setting to help estimate the risk for developing serious complications in patients with febrile neutropenia (See Tables 6 and 7) These scoring systems, together with clinical judgment and the patient’s ability to access care in a timely fashion, have been suggested as helpful in determining which patients might be considered for safe discharge with outpatient antibiotic treatment and early follow-up45 Feature Score Symptom severity None or mild = 5 Moderate = 3 Moribund = 0 Systolic blood pressure < 90 mmHg No = 5 Yes = 0 Active chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (needs oxygen, steroids, and/or bronchodilators) No = 4 Yes = 0 Type of tumor Solid = 4 Hematologic, no prior fungal infection = 4 Hematologic, prior fungal infection = 0 Status on the onset of fever Outpatient = 3 Inpatient = 0 Age < 60 years Yes = 2 No = 0 Range 0-26 Score > 21 = low risk and score ≤ 21 = high risk Feature Score Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Score: At least capable of all self-care, may not do work activities, but out of bed > 50% of day Yes = 0 No = 2 Stress-induced hyperglycemia: Initial blood glucose ≥ 121 mg/dL or ≥ 250 mg/dL in patients with diabetes or taking steroids Yes = 0 No = 2 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Therapy with one or more of the following: steroids, supplemental oxygen, or bronchodilators Yes = 1 No = 0 Cardiovascular disease history: Cor pulmonale, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, hypertensive heart disease, arrhythmias, valvular disease, other structural malformations Yes = 1 No = 0 Mucositis: With grade ≥ 2 (painful erythema, edema, or ulcers, but eating/swallowing possible) Yes = 1 No = 0 Monocytes < 200/mm3 Yes = 1 No = 0 Range 0-8 Score of 0 = low risk and score 1-2 = intermediate risk and score ≥ 3 = high risk In 2017, Coyne et al compared the CISNE and MASCC scores for patients presenting to the ED46 They looked at the ability of each tool to identify patients who might do poorly clinically, with the development of organ failure, altered mental status, hypotension, bacteremia, or a requirement for an upgrade in level of careThe MASCC score is calculated by assessing the severity of the patient’s presenting subjective complaints, patient age, history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), type of malignancy, and whether the patient is hypotensive on exam or exhibits signs of dehydration The higher the score, the lower the risk the patient is believed to have for a serious medical complication, with scores greater than 21 considered to be low risk CISNE is a less subjective measure, with a score of 0 considered low risk for complications It includes patient history of COPD, chronic cardiovascular disease, presence and severity of chemotherapy-induced mucositis, hyperglycemia, and a functional performance assessment (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group) of patient activities of daily living and overall well-being Coyne et al enrolled 230 patients, with 226 admitted to the hospital Most patients did well, but with 257% having at least one negative outcome The CISNE score appeared to have a better specificity for identifying patients hospitalized from the ED who were at lowest risk of developing complications while being treated in the hospital with IV antibiotics compared to the MASCC tool (983% vs 542%)46 Whether these findings can be extrapolated to patients who can be discharged safely from the ED remains to be studied further Communication between the ED provider and the patient’s oncologist is essential before deciding on a treatment plan in well-appearing patients presenting to the ED with neutropenic fever47 Cancer patients undergoing treatment are immunocompromised and at high risk for developing early complications leading to critical illness Compared to complications encountered with conventional chemotherapy, new-generation immunotherapies pose unique diagnostic challenges because their presentation can be vague and nonspecific or can mimic autoimmune diseases The prevalence of IRAEs is high and is seen in nearly one-fourth of patients undergoing therapy with ICIs24 Emergency providers must educate themselves on the spectrum of presentation of IRAEs so they can recognize and accurately diagnose these conditions For example, a patient undergoing ICI therapy with chest pain may need to be evaluated for pneumonitis and myocarditis in addition to the more common acute coronary syndrome and pulmonary embolism Although most toxicities of immunotherapeutic agents can be managed with corticosteroids, this can suppress the desired antitumor effects of the drug Therefore, emergency providers should consult with the patient’s oncologists when intiating steroids or other immunosuppressive agents Early communication with the patient’s oncologists serves a two-way purpose First, it allows the ED provider to gather information regarding the patient’s therapeutic regimen and to anticipate potential complications Second, it provides the oncologists with information about the patient’s ED visit, which will allow them to make modifications to the treatment regimen if necessary Emergency providers should establish relationships with the oncologists 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Ann Emerg Med 2017 and 69:765-767
Emergency medicine reports, ISSN 0746-2506, 04/2019, Volume 40, Issue 7
AUTHORS Chandni Ravi, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark Maureen Gang, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine,... 
Medical research | Antigens | Disease | Lung cancer | Melanoma | Oncology | Systematic review | Vaccines | FDA approval | Cancer therapies | Fever | Chemotherapy | Immunotherapy | Ligands | Lymphomas | Clinical medicine | Immune system | Neutropenia | Tumors | Apoptosis
Journal Article