Delayed immune-related adverse events in assessment for dose-limiting toxicity in early phase immunotherapy trials

Y. Kanjanapan, D. Day, M. O. Butler, L. Wang, A. M. Joshua, D. Hogg, N. B. Leighl, A. R.Abdul Razak, A. R. Hansen, S. Boujos, M. Chappell, K. Chow, B. Sherwin, L. A. Stayner, L. Soultani, A. Zambrana, L. L. Siu, P. L. Bedard, A. Spreafico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Immunotherapy (IO) agents can cause late-onset immune-related adverse events (irAEs). In phase I trials, observation for dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs) is typically limited to the first cycle. The incidence of delayed-onset DLTs and their potential impact on dose determination have not been fully elucidated. Patients and methods: Consecutive patients enrolled in early phase IO trials at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre between August 2012 and September 2016 were retrospectively reviewed, applying trial-specific definitions for DLTs. A clinically significant AE (csAE) was defined as a treatment-related adverse event requiring corticosteroids, hormone replacement, IO delay or discontinuation. Results: A total of 352 consecutive trial enrolments in 21 early phase clinical trials were included. Two-hundred seventy-eight patients (79%) received monotherapy and 74 (21%) received combination IO. Two hundred sixty (74%) patients experienced irAEs. There were two protocol-defined DLTs. Twenty (5.7%) patients had 24 csAEs qualifying as DLTs except for occurrence after the protocol-specified DLT period. One-hundred and six (10%) of irAEs were csAEs, including endocrine (26%), respiratory (14%), gastrointestinal (11%), general (10%), dermatological (8%), hepatic (8%), musculoskeletal (6%), pancreatic (6%), haematological, metabolic, neurological, cardiac (each 2%), infective and ocular (each 1%) events. The highest risk of first-onset csAE was during the first 4 weeks compared with the period from 4 weeks to end of treatment (odds ratio 3.13, 95% confidence interval 1.95–5.02). The median time to first onset csAE was significantly shorter with combination than monotherapy IO (32 vs. 146 days, P < 0.001). Conclusions: In our series of early phase IO trials, the risk of csAE was highest during the initial 4 weeks on IO treatment, supporting the use of the conventional DLT period for dose escalation decision. However, there were 24 clinically significant late-onset DLTs in 5.7% of patients. Combination IO was associated with greater risk of and also earlier onset for csAE, which may need to be considered for early phase trial design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adverse events
  • DLT
  • Dose limiting
  • Early phase
  • Immune-related adverse events
  • Immunotherapy
  • Toxicities
  • Toxicity

Cite this