Prediction of severe immune-related adverse events requiring hospital admission in patients on immune checkpoint inhibitors: Study of a population level insurance claims database from the USA

Mark Kalinich, William Murphy, Shannon Wongvibulsin, Vartan Pahalyants, Kun Hsing Yu, Chenyue Lu, Feicheng Wang, Leyre Zubiri, Vivek Naranbhai, Alexander Gusev, Shawn G. Kwatra, Kerry L. Reynolds, Yevgeniy R. Semenov

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Background Immune-related adverse events (irAEs) are a serious side effect of immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy for patients with advanced cancer. Currently, predisposing risk factors are undefined but understanding which patients are at increased risk for irAEs severe enough to require hospitalization would be beneficial to tailor treatment selection and monitoring. Methods We performed a retrospective review of patients with cancer treated with ICIs using unidentifiable claims data from an Aetna nationwide US health insurance database from January 3, 2011 to December 31, 2019, including patients with an identified primary cancer and at least one administration of an ICI. Regression analyses were performed. Main outcomes were incidence of and factors associated with irAE requiring hospitalization in ICI therapy. Results There were 68.8 million patients identified in the national database, and 14 378 patients with cancer identified with at least 1 administration of ICI in the study period. Patients were followed over 19 117 patient years and 504 (3.5%) developed an irAE requiring hospitalization. The incidence of irAEs requiring hospitalization per patient ICI treatment year was 2.6%, rising from 0% (0/71) in 2011 to 3.7% (93/2486) in 2016. Combination immunotherapy (OR: 2.44, p<0.001) was associated with increased odds of developing irAEs requiring hospitalization, whereas older patients (OR 0.98 per additional year, p<0.001) and those with non-lung cancer were associated with decreased odds of irAEs requiring hospitalization (melanoma OR: 0.70, p=0.01, renal cell carcinoma OR: 0.71, p=0.03, other cancers OR: 0.50, p<0.001). Sex, region, zip-code-imputed income, and zip-code unemployment were not associated with incidence of irAE requiring hospitalization. Prednisone (72%) and methylprednisolone (25%) were the most common immunosuppressive treatments identified in irAE hospitalizations. Conclusions We found that 3.5% of patients initiating ICI therapy experienced irAEs requiring hospitalization and immunosuppression. The odds of irAEs requiring hospitalization were higher with younger age, treatment with combination ICI therapy (cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated 4 and programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) or programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1)), and lower for other cancers compared with patients on PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors with lung cancer. This evidence from the first nationwide study of irAEs requiring hospitalization in the USA identified the real-world epidemiology, risk factors, and treatment patterns of these irAEs which may guide treatment and management decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number001935
Number of pages10
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Immunotherapy

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