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Immunotherapy-Related Pneumonitis in Lung Cancer

BETH SANDY, MSN, CRNP | August 04, 2020

Oncology nurses need to look out for the signs of immunotherapy-related pneumonitis in their patients with lung cancer, as they have a higher rate of the adverse event than patients with other cancer types, according to Beth Sandy, MSN, CRNP, a nurse at the Abramson Cancer Center of University of Pennsylvania.


[L]ung cancer patients ... they have a higher rate of pneumonitis than other types of cancer where immunotherapy is utilized. For example, melanoma was the first tumor type where immunotherapy became a mainstay of treatment. But their pneumonitis rates, that pulmonary inflammation from immunotherapy, is really low. It's 1% or less.

[I]n lung cancer, if you look at some of the meta analyses, up to 13% of lung cancer patients can experience pneumonitis from immunotherapy. So that is something really to focus on in lung cancer patients is that inflammation, shortness of breath, that can be induced by immunotherapy.

And then the other [adverse events] are pretty typical that we see across tumor types like the endocrinopathies, the hypothyroidism, the colitis, nephritis and hepatitis are uncommon -- 1% to 3%. But they definitely happen, just [like] these other inflammatory [events] and then the [dermatologic] conditions again, less common in lung cancer, but more common in other tumor types. But something that we see frequently I saw one this week like a very strange kind of skin hypersensitivity almost reaction.

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