publication date: Jul. 2, 2020

Clinical Roundup

NCCN Guidelines for patients can help patients recognize side-effects of immunotherapy

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network published NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Immunotherapy Side Effects—Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors.

Emerging research shows immunotherapy can result in different side effects than chemotherapy, including severe adverse events. Researchers have found 43% of patients have stopped treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors (or ICIs, a common type of immunotherapy), as a result of serious side effects.

“These NCCN Guidelines for Patients are designed to educate patients and to help them recognize immune side effects so that effective interventions can be started promptly,” Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s John A. Thompson, professor of medicine, University of Washington, member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and chair, NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology Panel for Management of Immunotherapy-Related Toxicities, said in a statement.

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized our approach to the treatment of cancer. ICIs are now approved by the FDA for treating more than a dozen forms of cancer and the list is growing every year. However, by virtue of stimulating the patient’s immune white blood cells, ICI therapy sometimes causes serious side-effects that mimic autoimmune disease, including significant rash and/or inflammation of the thyroid, liver, lungs, nervous system, glandular system, heart, or other organs,” Thompson said.

The book stresses that immune-related adverse events can start at any point during or after immunotherapy. Most side effects can be managed effectively if identified and treated early, generally via corticosteroids. The most-common adverse effects are skin disorders. Visit for a quick glance at the types of adverse events that may require medical attention.

NCCN will soon add a second patient guideline on another type of immunotherapy: chimeric antigen receptor CAR T-cell therapy. NCCN Guidelines for Patients cover all major cancers, including breast, prostate, colon, lung, pancreatic, and many more. The immunotherapy books join other supportive care manuals for cancer-related distress and nausea.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.