Article Text

Original research
Durable responses in patients with genitourinary cancers following immune checkpoint therapy rechallenge after moderate-to-severe immune-related adverse events
  1. Bilal A Siddiqui1,
  2. Jinesh S Gheeya2,
  3. Rohit Goswamy2,
  4. Tharakeswara K Bathala3,
  5. Devaki Shilpa Surasi4,
  6. Jianjun Gao1,
  7. Amishi Shah1,
  8. Matthew T Campbell1,
  9. Pavlos Msaouel1,5,
  10. Sangeeta Goswami1,6,
  11. Jennifer Wang1,
  12. Amado J Zurita1,
  13. Eric Jonasch1,
  14. Paul G Corn1,
  15. Ana M Aparicio1,
  16. Arlene O Siefker-Radtke1,
  17. Padmanee Sharma1,6,
  18. Sumit K Subudhi1 and
  19. Nizar Tannir1
  1. 1Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, USA
  3. 3Department of Abdominal Imaging, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
  4. 4Department of Nuclear Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
  5. 5Department of Translational Molecular Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
  6. 6Department of Immunology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nizar Tannir; ntannir{at}mdanderson.org

Abstract

Background Immune checkpoint therapy (ICT) prolongs survival in subsets of patients with cancer but can also trigger immune-related adverse events (irAEs) requiring treatment discontinuation. Recent studies have investigated safety of ICT rechallenge after irAEs, and evidence suggests that rechallenge may be associated with improved antitumor responses. However, data are limited on response duration after ICT rechallenge, particularly after severe irAEs.

Objective To evaluate safety and efficacy of ICT rechallenge after moderate-to-severe irAEs in patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), urothelial carcinoma (UC), and prostate cancer.

Methods In this retrospective cohort study, medical records from September 25, 2013, to June 1, 2020, for patients with genitourinary (GU) cancers at MD Anderson Cancer Center who were rechallenged with the same or different ICT following irAEs were reviewed. Demographics, ICT exposure, irAEs (grade and treatment), ICT discontinuation or rechallenge, rates of subsequent irAEs (new or recurrent) and antitumor activity (objective response rates and response duration) were reviewed.

Results Sixty-one patients with RCC, UC, and prostate cancer were rechallenged with ICT after experiencing 105 total irAEs. Objective response rates after rechallenge, that is, upgrade in response, were 14% in RCC (4/28), 21% in UC (3/14), and 0% in prostate cancer. All seven patients who achieved upgrade in response had initial grade 2 or 3 irAEs. Responses were durable among these seven patients, with median radiographic progression-free survival not reached (range: 3.7–66.4 months) as of the March 8, 2021, data cut-off (median follow-up 40.9 months (95% CI 35.3 to 46.5)). All achieved complete response except one patient who was lost to follow-up. The rate of subsequent grade 3 or 4 irAEs after rechallenge was 30%, with no fatal irAEs. The rate of recrudescence of the same irAE was 26% (16/61). 54% of patients received corticosteroids (33/61), and 21% received targeted immunosuppression (13/61) for the initial irAEs.

Conclusions and relevance ICT rechallenge after moderate-to-severe irAEs was associated with deep and durable responses in a subset of patients with RCC and UC, with acceptable safety and no fatal events. Strategies to enable ICT resumption after moderate-to-severe irAEs, such targeted immunosuppression, warrant further study.

  • kidney neoplasms
  • prostatic neoplasms
  • urinary bladder neoplasms
  • autoimmunity
  • immunotherapy

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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Introduction

Immune checkpoint therapies (ICTs), most commonly targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein-4 (CTLA-4), programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1), and/or programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) have dramatically altered the treatment paradigm for many cancers, offering prolonged survival for subsets of patients. ICTs are standard-of-care therapy for patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and urothelial carcinoma (UC).1 2

ICTs carry the risk of immune-related adverse events (irAEs), in which excess immune activation can lead to damage of normal host tissue. Though irAEs most commonly affect the skin, gastrointestinal tract and endocrine systems, irAEs can affect any organ including cardiovascular, pulmonary, musculoskeletal and nervous systems, among others. irAEs vary in severity, ranging from mild events in which ICT can often be continued to severe irAEs warranting cessation of therapy and aggressive immunosuppression. In general, management guidelines recommend continuation of ICT for most grade 1 irAEs (defined by the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE)), whereas grade 2 irAEs usually warrant ICT interruption, treatment with corticosteroids, and consideration of ICT resumption when the irAE returns to grade 1 or has resolved.3 Grade 3 irAEs typically require high-dose corticosteroids in addition to withholding ICT and often involve additional, targeted immunosuppression.

Multiple studies have demonstrated a link between manageable, non-fatal irAEs and improved outcomes in patients with cancer.4–18 The mechanisms of these augmented antitumor outcomes are incompletely defined, but may be due in part to shared antigens between host and tumor, which may enable effective antitumor T cell responses within the context of excess immune activation during irAEs.19 Importantly, such studies have often reported that immunosuppressive treatment of irAEs does not necessarily reduce the antitumor efficacy of ICTs. However, prolonged exposure to high-dose corticosteroids is associated with serious adverse effects, including life-threatening opportunistic infection, hyperglycemia, and myopathy, among others, highlighting the need for steroid-sparing immunosuppression to abort the toxicity. In certain cases, rechallenge with ICTs has been associated with antitumor responses in patients not previously responding to ICT.20 21 Taken together, these studies suggest that the risk–benefit calculation may favor rechallenge with ICTs after irAEs in selected circumstances, possibly aided by selective immunosuppression.22 Studies of ICT rechallenge after irAEs to date have primarily focused on one type of cancer such as melanoma, RCC, or lung cancer, or have provided limited clinical details on treatment, severity, or cancer-specific outcomes, including duration of response.20 21 23

Given that ICTs can induce prolonged responses in subsets of patients with cancer, we hypothesized that ICT rechallenge after irAEs would be not only safe in selected circumstances but may lead to augmented, durable responses. In this retrospective study, we report on a cohort of patients with RCC, UC, and prostate cancer, who underwent ICT rechallenge after moderate-to-severe irAEs and achieved improved, durable responses in a subset of patients with RCC and UC, with an acceptable safety profile and no fatal events.

Methods

Medical records of patients with RCC, UC, and prostate cancer treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) from September 25, 2013, to June 1, 2020, were queried using a set of 202 pre-specified search terms covering ICT (including generic names, trade names, and chemical names) and a broad set of autoimmune diseases encompassing irAEs, including abbreviations (online supplemental table 1). Patients’ records were manually reviewed to confirm administration of ICT and documentation of irAEs, permanent discontinuation or rechallenge with ICT, grade of irAE by CTCAE, and treatment. Data on demographics and outcomes were also collected. The data cut-off date for survival was March 8, 2021. Patient and disease characteristics were summarized as median and range for continuous variables, and as number and percentage for categorical variables. Radiographic responses were screened by RECIST V.1.1 where available (ie, when measurements were formally listed as part of a clinical protocol); otherwise, the response assessment of the treating physician was used. Response upgrades were subsequently confirmed by two independent radiologists by RECIST V.1.1. The decision to rechallenge with ICT was at the discretion of the treating physician. All statistics were descriptive in nature and no formal statistical hypotheses were tested. Kaplan-Meier survival curves were generated in GraphPad Prism V.8.0.0. Median follow-up time was calculated by the reverse Kaplan-Meier method.

Supplemental material

Results

In the initial screen, 30,681 patient records were queried using pre-specified search terms (online supplemental table 1), filtered to 231 patients with RCC, UC, or prostate cancer who experienced irAEs after ICT requiring suspension of treatment (figure 1). Sixty-one patients were identified who were rechallenged with the same or different ICT (RCC, n=28; UC, n=14; prostate cancer, n=19) (figure 1) (table 1). Eight of the 19 patients with prostate cancer (42%) had RECIST-measurable disease (table 1). Thirty-eight out of the 61 patients (62%) were rechallenged with their original ICT (ICT1) (online supplemental table 2). A subset of patients were rechallenged with a separate, second (’ICT2’) or third (‘ICT3’) ICT agent, with overlaps between these groups, that is, patients who were rechallenged with both ICT1 and ICT2 (table 2). The relationship between the initial ICT drug class to the next line ICT exposure is provided in online supplemental table 3. Details of the reasons for ICT1 discontinuation are provided in online supplemental table 4. The median time from first dose of ICT1 to discontinuation (last dose of ICT1) was 84 days (95% CI: 65 to 105).

Figure 1

Consort diagram. Medical records from patients with prostate cancer, urothelial carcinoma, and renal cell carcinoma were screened for exposure to ICT and experience of irAE using pre-specified search terms. ICT, immune checkpoint therapy; irAE, immune-related adverse event; GU, genitourinary.

Table 1

Baseline characteristics of patients rechallenged with immune checkpoint therapy (ICT)

Table 2

ICT received in rechallenged patients

The 61 patients rechallenged with ICT had experienced a total of 105 initial irAEs (table 3). The median time to the development of irAEs from ICT1 was 56 days (95% CI: 42 to 65). The majority of initial irAEs were moderate (grade 2) and included a subset of severe irAEs (grade 3 or 4). The most common irAEs of any grade were rash/pruritus, colitis/diarrhea, and thyroid abnormalities. The grade 3 irAEs consisted of rash/pruritus, colitis/diarrhea, hepatitis/elevated aspartate aminotransferase/alanine aminotransferase (AST/ALT), arthritis/arthralgia, pancreatitis, elevated amylase/lipase, and dyspnea/pleural effusion (table 3). There was one grade 4 irAE: hepatitis/elevated AST/ALT (table 3). There were no cases of the more often lethal cardiac or neuromuscular irAEs (myocarditis, myositis, or myasthenia gravis) in the cohort of patients rechallenged with ICT. Corticosteroids were administered in 54% of patients (33/61), and 21% of patients received targeted immunosuppression (13/61) for the initial irAEs (online supplemental table 5). Targeted immunosuppression included mesalamine, vedolizumab, infliximab, tocilizumab, and mycophenolate mofetil.

Table 3

Initial and subsequent irAEs in patients rechallenged with ICT

Thirty-six out of the 61 patients rechallenged with ICT (59%) experienced a total of 46 subsequent irAEs (table 3). The median time to first subsequent irAE after rechallenge was 116 days (95% CI: 56 to 268). Sixteen patients (26%) had recrudescence of the same irAE. Similar recrudescence rates were observed with rechallenge after grade 2 irAEs (26%, 9/34) and after grade 3/4 irAEs (20%, 3/15) (p=0.73, Fisher’s exact test). The rate of irAEs after rechallenge in patients who received corticosteroids for the initial irAE was 58% (19/33) and 61% (17/28) in those patients who did not receive corticosteroids. Most subsequent irAEs were grade 1 or grade 2 (table 3). The most common subsequent irAEs were rash/pruritus, colitis/diarrhea, and hepatitis/elevated AST/ALT (table 3). The breakdown of subsequent irAEs by rechallenge agent is provided in online supplemental table 7, and had an expected distribution (ie, colitis/diarrhea occurred most frequently following rechallenge with anti-CTLA-4-based regimens). There were 14 subsequent grade 3 irAEs (30%), including colitis/diarrhea, hepatitis/elevated AST/ALT, arthritis/arthralgia, pneumonitis, adrenal insufficiency, and type 1 diabetes mellitus (table 3). Eight of these 14 (57%) received systemic corticosteroids, with a median duration of steroids of 39 days (range: 15–69). There were no grade 4 or 5 irAEs. The relationship between type and grade of initial and subsequent irAEs is shown in figure 2. The most common initial irAEs leading to a subsequent irAE after rechallenge were colitis and rash (figure 2). One episode of grade 3 colitis was noted after an initial episode of grade 1 colitis, and cases of grade 3 hepatitis and colitis were identified after a grade 1 rash (figure 2). No cases of subsequent cardiac or neuromuscular irAEs (myocarditis, myositis, or myasthenia gravis) were observed in patients rechallenged with ICT.

Figure 2

Patterns of initial and subsequent irAEs. ‘Arthritis’ includes both arthritis and arthralgia. ‘Colitis’ includes both biopsy proven colitis and suspected. For patients with multiple initial irAEs, the highest grade or most clinically relevant (eg, warranting hospitalization) event is depicted for readability. Pie slices generated for legibility and do not correlate with frequency of irAE. Patients who did not experience a subsequent irAE (n=25) are not included in this diagram. AI, adrenal insufficiency; AST, aspartate aminotransferase; ALT, alanine aminotransferase; Col., colitis; HSR, hypersensitivity reaction; irAEs, immune-related adverse events; MMF=mycophenolate mofetil; Pneumo., pneumonitis; Subs. subsequent; T1DM, type 1 diabetes mellitus.

We next examined efficacy outcomes with ICT rechallenge (figure 3). As of the March 8, 2021, data cut-off, the median follow-up time was 40.9 months (95% CI 35.3 to 46.5). The median time from first irAE to assessment of best radiographic response following rechallenge was 4.3 months (95% CI: 3.2 to 6.5). Survival outcomes are summarized in figure 3 and online supplemental table 8. Response upgrades were confirmed by two independent radiologists by RECIST V.1.1, and measurements for patients with upgrade in response are provided in online supplemental table 9. For the patients with RCC, three patients achieved a subsequent complete response (CR) from partial response (PR) after ICT rechallenge, and one patient reached a subsequent PR from stable disease (SD) (14%, 4/28) (figure 3C) (online supplemental table 4 and online supplemental table 9). In the patients with UC (n=14), three patients achieved CR from SD, including one patient (#60) who had undergone a consolidative surgery to resect residual tumor (21%, 3/14) (figure 3C) (online supplemental table 4 and online supplemental table 9). Among the patients with prostate cancer (eight patients with RECIST-measurable disease) no patients achieved an upgrade in response following ICT rechallenge (figure 3C) (online supplemental table 8). Details of the seven patients with UC and RCC who achieved an upgrade in response, all of whom had initial grade 2 or 3 irAEs, are summarized in table 4 and online supplemental table 10. One of these seven patients discontinued treatment for toxicity, one remains on treatment, and the remainder either completed treatment as pre-specified in a clinical protocol or were lost to follow-up (table 4). The median progression-free survival (PFS) has not yet been reached for these seven patients (range: 3.7–66.4 months) (figure 3D). The patient with the shortest PFS (3.7 months, #13) was lost to follow-up and had achieved a PR at the time of last response assessment (figure 3D). Among these seven patients, three patients had recrudescence of the same irAE after rechallenge. Subsequent irAEs among these patients were predominantly grade 1 and 2, with the exception of grade 3 hepatitis in one patient who achieved a subsequent CR after PR (table 4). Finally, clinical information on the four patients who demonstrated a ‘downgrade’ in response, is provided in online supplemental table 11.

Figure 3

Outcomes with ICT rechallenge. (A) Progression-free survival (PFS) after first exposure to ICT (ICT1). Initial screening radiographic response assessment obtained per RECIST V.1.1 where available. Radiographic PFS (rPFS) used for patients with prostate cancer. (B) Overall survival (OS) after ICT1. (C) Best radiographic response after irAE. irAEs are annotated for seven patients (four RCC and three UC) with response upgrade. Response upgrades confirmed by two independent radiologists. (D) Swimmer’s plot of PFS after ICT1 (months) in patients with response upgrades. Response upgrades confirmed by two independent radiologists. Yellow arrows indicate ongoing response. CR, complete response; CTLA-4, cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein-4; ICT, immune checkpoint therapy; irAE, immune-related adverse event, PD, progression of disease; PD-1 programmed cell death protein-1; PD-L1, programmed death-ligand 1; PR, partial response; RCC, renal cell carcinoma; SD, stable disease; TKI, tyrosine kinase inhibitor; UC, urothelial carcinoma. *Indicates patient who underwent consolidative surgery.

Table 4

Clinical information for patients who achieved subsequent upgrade in response after ICT rechallenge

We then examined the influence of targeted immunosuppression (including biologics) on outcomes and identified 13 cases in which selective treatment enabled ICT rechallenge (RCC, n=7; UC, n=3; prostate cancer, n=3) (table 5). Nine of these 13 (69%) had been treated with corticosteroids (table 5). These 13 cases included colitis/diarrhea, arthritis, psoriasis, and hepatitis. For colitis, patients received mesalamine, infliximab (anti-tumor necrosis factor-α) and/or vedolizumab (anti-integrin α4β7) (table 5). Two patients with arthritis received tocilizumab (anti-interleukin (IL)-6), and one patient with psoriasis received secukinumab (anti-IL-17A) (table 5). There were seven subsequent irAEs, predominantly grade 1 or 2 with the exception of one grade 3 colitis. Notably, two patients with RCC achieved a subsequent response upgrade with selective immunosuppression (SD to PR, n=1; PR to CR, n=1), who had colitis/diarrhea, of whom one received vedolizumab and one received mesalamine (table 5). Of these 13 patients, 7 experienced a subsequent irAE (54%), which were predominantly grade 1 or 2, with the exception of one subsequent case of grade 3 colitis/diarrhea, which occurred following rechallenge with anti-CTLA-4 monotherapy after grade 1 colitis/diarrhea (table 5). Corticosteroids were required in two of these seven cases (29%). Vedolizumab was employed in one case of grade 3 colitis, and tocilizumab was employed in two cases of grade 1 and grade 2 arthritis/arthralgia, respectively (table 5).

Table 5

Clinical details of ICT rechallenged patients who received targeted immunosuppression for initial irAE

Finally, because it has recently been observed that irAE involvement in target organs (eg, interstitial nephritis in patients with RCC) may be associated with increased response to ICT, potentially due to antigenic overlap between renal tubular cells and tumor cells, we identified one patient with RCC, who had grade 2 nephritis as a subsequent irAE after initial grade 2 uveitis.24 This patient achieved a durable partial response lasting 30 months from the start of ICT, with a time to subsequent treatment of 25.9 months.

Discussion

In this retrospective cohort study, we investigated ICT rechallenge following moderate-to-severe irAEs in patients with RCC, UC, and prostate cancer. We hypothesized that ICT rechallenge after irAEs would be safe in selected circumstances and could lead to augmented, durable responses. We observed that ICT rechallenge after moderate-to-severe irAEs was associated with deep and durable responses in a subset of patients with RCC and UC, with an acceptable safety profile and no fatal events.

For patients with treatment-refractory cancers and limited therapeutic options, the ability to rechallenge with ICT offers a potential strategy for clinical benefit. Prior studies have reported an acceptable rate of irAE recrudescence following ICT rechallenge in selected circumstances with additional antitumor responses in certain cases (online supplemental table 10).20 21 25 From the standpoint of safety, the rate of recrudescence of the same irAE in our cohort was 26.2% (16/61), in line with other reports of ICT rechallenge.20 25–27 The rate of subsequent grade 3 or 4 adverse events was 30% after rechallenge, with no fatal complications observed. Importantly, our data show that select patients with severe (grade 3) irAEs were able to be successfully rechallenged with ICT, enabled in certain cases by targeted immunosuppression. The patterns of initial and subsequent irAEs were as expected, with dermatologic, gastrointestinal, joint, and endocrine irAEs as the most common. Of note, our cohort does not provide data on rechallenge after toxicities associated with high fatality rates such as myocarditis and myasthenia gravis (these cases were present only in those patients who permanently discontinued ICT). The largest pharmacovigilance study of ICT rechallenge to date examined 452 informative rechallenges and identified a rate of recrudescence of 28.8%.25 This study shed light on patterns of recurrence (eg, finding that the highest recurrence rates were in colitis and hepatitis); however, it did not report data on severity or treatment of irAEs nor on cancer-specific outcomes. Additionally, only rechallenge with the same ICT regimen was reported. Other studies have identified recrudescence rates across tumor types and ICT classes ranging from 3% to 43% (online supplemental table 12).20 26–30 Finally, we observed a longer median time to subsequent irAEs after rechallenge, compared with the time for the development of initial irAEs. Possible explanations for this longer latency period for the development of a subsequent irAE include: (1) effects of corticosteroids or other immunosuppression and (2) diminished immune activation due to rechallenge with only one drug (eg, rechallenge with anti-PD-(L)1 only following combined anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-(L)1. This observation will require further validation in future studies.

Beyond the issue of safety, a key question is whether ICT rechallenge after irAEs is associated with improved outcomes. In a retrospective study of 173 patients with metastatic melanoma who developed gastrointestinal (GI) irAEs, any grade GI irAEs were associated with improved OS compared with patients who did not experience GI irAEs, with no impact on survival with the use of immunosuppressive treatment.31 This association between irAEs and antitumor response without harmful impact from immunosuppression has been borne out in numerous studies across multiple cancer types, including urothelial carcinoma, melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, and lung cancers.4–18 32 Moreover, evidence suggests that ICT rechallenge may lead to an antitumor effect for patients with irAEs who had not previously experienced a treatment response, as has been shown in non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma.27 28 Two separate studies of ICT rechallenge in RCC have reported objective response rates of 23%.20 21 These studies included subsets of patients with grade 3 toxicities, but did not provide information on immunosuppression beyond corticosteroids. In our patients, we observed objective response rates of 14% in RCC, 21% in UC, and 0% in prostate cancer (in eight patients with RECIST-measurable disease) following ICT rechallenge. It is important to note that ICT is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for prostate cancer except in certain tumor-agnostic settings, and significant effort is underway in optimizing patient selection (including sites of disease, eg, bone-predominant vs lymph node vs visceral metastases).33 All seven patients who achieved a subsequent upgrade in response had experienced grade 2 or 3 irAEs. Two patients with RCC achieved a response upgrade following selective immunosuppression after grade 2 or 3 colitis. Most notably, these responses were durable and deep, with median PFS not yet reached as of the March 8, 2021, data cut-off date, and six of the seven patients achieving CR. The patient with the shortest PFS had a partial response at the time of last response assessment and was lost to follow-up. Notably, while the classes of second-line ICTs in our cohort were diverse, among those patients with upgrade in response, all of the patients were rechallenged with a similar class of drug or only one of the two drugs (eg, anti-PD-(L)1 following anti-CTLA-4 plus anti-PD-(L)1). Taken together, these results suggest that ICT rechallenge may be associated with deep and durable benefit for certain patients.

Recent evidence has suggested that distinct mechanisms may be involved in antitumor immunity compared with irAEs, which may permit selective immunosuppression with steroid-sparing approaches and continuation of ICT.22 34 35 In one case of colitis treated with vedolizumab in our cohort, the patient achieved PR from SD after rechallenge, and the use of secukinumab enabled ICT treatment in a patient with psoriasis who achieved CR. Notably, this approach enabled ICT rechallenge after selected severe irAEs. Clinical trials investigating the role of targeted immunosuppression in irAEs are ongoing, including trials at our institution of infliximab, vedolizumab, and fecal microbiota transplantation in ICT-associated colitis (NCT04407247, NCT04038619). Furthermore, investigation into mechanisms of irAEs remains a highly active area of research to identify rational therapeutic targets and predictive biomarkers (eg, the presence of autoantibodies or clonally expanded peripheral T cells) to identify at-risk patients for early intervention.36–38

The major strengths of our study are the inclusion of multiple tumor types (including urothelial carcinoma which has had less data on ICT rechallenge than RCC), comparable sample size to other major studies of ICT rechallenge, and detailed clinical information on severity (with the majority of cases being moderate and including a subset of severe cases), treatment (including selective immunosuppression), and outcomes (including duration of responses). We acknowledge that our study has several limitations, notably its retrospective nature and physician discretion regarding ICT discontinuation or rechallenge. As described above, the presence of irAEs alone in certain circumstances is associated with improved cancer outcomes; therefore, causality cannot necessarily be attributed to the ICT rechallenge. Due to the multiple factors contributing to the decision to discontinue versus rechallenge ICT, including differences in the distribution of irAEs (including type and grade) an accurate comparison of clinical responses between the two groups is not feasible, outside of the context of a prospective clinical trial. This is particularly important in two patients, one of whom also received consolidative surgery (#59) and one whose first response assessment occurred after the development of the irAE (#13), which limits conclusions as to the benefit of ICT rechallenge in these two patients. Additionally, as irAEs were screened using specified search terms and subsequently confirmed by manual chart review, the reports rely on the accurate recording and documentation of irAEs by the treating physician. Finally, we did not have patients rechallenged with ICT who experienced toxicities that carry a particularly high mortality rate, such as myocarditis, myositis, and myasthenia gravis.

In conclusion, in this retrospective analysis of patients with genitourinary cancers (prostate, kidney, and bladder), ICT rechallenge after moderate-to-severe irAEs was associated with deep and durable responses in a subset of patients with RCC and UC, with an acceptable safety profile and no fatal events. Strategies to enable ICT resumption after moderate-to-severe irAEs, such as with targeted immunosuppression warrant further study.

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

Ethics statements

Ethics approval

This study was conducted under an Institutional Review Board approved protocol (PA16-0736) covering retrospective chart reviews in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC).

Acknowledgments

We are extremely grateful to Michael Starbuck in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology for his assistance in developing and running our search query.

References

Supplementary materials

  • Supplementary Data

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Footnotes

  • BAS and JSG contributed equally.

  • Contributors The first draft of the manuscript was written by BAS and JSG. All authors contributed to the final manuscript and approved the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The corresponding authors had access to all data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests BAS, JSG, RG, TKB, DSS, JW, SG, and PGC report no relevant disclosures. AYS reports advisory board disclosures for Exelixis, Bristol Myers Squibb, Roche, and Pfizer; and research disclosures from Eisai, Bristol Myers Squibb, and EMD Serono. MTC reports Advisory Board/Honararium: Eisai, Exelixis, Seattle Genetics, Astellas, Pfizer, EMD Serono; Research Funding: Janssen, Exelixis, EMD Serono, Pfizer, Apricity Health, AstraZeneca. PM has received honoraria for service on a scientific advisory boards for Mirati Therapeutics, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Exelixis; consulting for Axiom Healthcare Strategies; non-branded educational programs supported by Exelixis and Pfizer; and research funding for clinical trials from Takeda, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mirati Therapeutics, Gateway for Cancer Research, and UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. EJ reports research funding: Aravive, Arrowhead, Merck, Novartis; honoraria: Aravive, Eisai, Exelixis, Ipsen, Merck, NiKang, Novartis, Pfizer. AJZ reports consulting or advisory roles for AstraZeneca and Bayer; research funding to his institution from Infinity Pharma; honoraria from Pfizer and Janssen. AMA reports Consulting/Advisory Board: Daiichi Sankyo, AstraZeneca, Amgen, Janssen, Astellas, Genzyme; Editorial Role: American Cancer Society. AOS-R reports: Consulting/Advisory/Speaker: AstraZeneca, Basilea, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Mirati, Nektar, Seattle Genetics, Taiho, Janssen, Immunomedics; Research Funding: Basilea, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Netkar, Janssen, Immunomedics. PS reports Stock/Other Ownership: Achelois, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Affini-T, Apricity Health, BioAtla, BioNTech, Codiak Biosciences, Constellation, Dragonfly Therapeutics, Earli, Glympse, Hummingbird Biosciences, ImaginAB, Infinity Pharma, Jounce Therapeutics, JSL Health, Lava Therapeutics, Lytix Biopharma, Marker Therapeutics, Oncolytics, PBM Capital, Phenomics, Polaris Group, Sporos, Time Bioventures; Consulting/Advisory Role: Achelois, Affini-T, Apricity Health, BioAtla, Codiak Biosciences, Dragonfly Therapeutics, Earli, Glympse, Hummingbird Biosciences, ImaginAB, Infinity Pharma, Jounce Therapeutics, JSL Health, Lava Therapeutics, Lytix Biopharma, Marker Therapeutics, Oncolytics, PBM Capital, Phenomics, Polaris Group, Sporos, Time Bioventures. SKS reports Stock and Other Ownership Interests: Apricity Health; Honoraria: Apricity Health, Janssen, Dendreon, Polaris, Parker Institute of Cancer Immunotherapy, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Dava Oncology, Exelixis, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer; Consulting or Advisory Role: Valeant/Dendreon, Apricity Health, Janssen, Polaris, Bayer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Dava Oncology; Research Funding: Janssen, Bristol Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca; Travel, Accommodations, Expenses: Janssen, Compugen, Dendreon, Amgen, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Bristol Myers Squibb, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, AstraZeneca, Dava Oncology. NMT reports consulting/advisory relationship: Bristol Myers Squibb; Pfizer; Nektar Therapeutics; Exelisis, Eisai Medical Research; Eli Lilly; Oncorena; Calithera Bioscience; Surface Oncology; Novartis, Ipsen; Merck Sharp & Dohme; Research Funding: Bristol Myers Squibb; Nektar Therapeutics; Calithera Bioscience; Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals; Scientific Advisory Committees: Nektar Therapeutics; Pfizer, Oncorena; Eli Lilly, Eisai Medical Research.

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