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Introduction: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) produce a broad spectrum of immune-related adverse events (irAEs) affecting various organ systems. While ICIs are established as a therapeutic option in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatment, most patients receiving ICI relapse. Additionally, the role of ICIs on survival in patients receiving prior targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy has not been well-defined.

Objective: To investigate the impact of irAEs, the relative time of occurrence, and prior TKI therapy to predict clinical outcomes in NSCLC patients treated with ICIs.

Methods: A single center retrospective cohort study identified 354 adult patients with NSCLC receiving ICI therapy between 2014 and 2018. Survival analysis utilized overall survival (OS) and real-world progression free survival (rwPFS) outcomes. Model performance matrices for predicting 1-year OS and 6-month rwPFS using linear regression baseline, optimal, and machine learning modeling approaches.

Results: Patients experiencing an irAE were found to have a significantly longer OS and rwPFS compared to patients who did not (median OS 25.1 vs. 11.1 months; hazard ratio [HR] 0.51, confidence interval [CI] 0.39- 0.68, P-value <0.001, median rwPFS 5.7 months vs. 2.3; HR 0.52, CI 0.41- 0.66, P-value <0.001, respectively). Patients who received TKI therapy before initiation of ICI experienced significantly shorter OS than patients without prior TKI therapy (median OS 7.6 months vs. 18.5 months; P-value < 0.01). After adjusting for other variables, irAEs and prior TKI therapy significantly impacted OS and rwPFS. Lastly, the performances of models implementing logistic regression and machine learning approaches were comparable in predicting 1-year OS and 6-month rwPFS.

Conclusion: The occurrence of irAEs, the timing of the events, and prior TKI therapy were significant predictors of survival in NSCLC patients on ICI therapy. Therefore, our study supports future prospective studies to investigate the impact of irAEs, and sequence of therapy on the survival of NSCLC patients taking ICIs.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Oncology, volume 13, in 2023.


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