Immune checkpoint inhibitor-induced neurotoxicity is not associated with seroprevalence of neurotropic infections

Schmitt C, Hoefsmit EP, Fangmeier T, Kramer N, Kabakci C, Vera González J, Versluis JM, Compter A, Harrer T, Mijočević H, Schubert S, Hundsberger T, Menzies AM, Scolyer RA, Long GV, French LE, Blank CU, Heinzerling LM (2023)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2023


DOI: 10.1007/s00262-023-03498-0


Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) substantially improve outcome for patients with cancer. However, the majority of patients develops immune-related adverse events (irAEs), which can be persistent and significantly reduce quality of life. Neurological irAEs occur in 1–5% of patients and can induce severe, permanent sequelae or even be fatal. In order to improve the diagnosis and treatment of neurological irAEs and to better understand their pathogenesis, we assessed whether previous neurotropic infections are associated with neurological irAEs. Methods: Neurotropic infections that might predispose to ICI-induced neurological irAEs were analyzed in 61 melanoma patients from 3 countries, the Netherlands, Australia and Germany, including 24 patients with neurotoxicity and 37 control patients. In total, 14 viral, 6 bacterial, and 1 protozoal infections previously reported to trigger neurological pathologies were assessed using routine serology testing. The Dutch and Australian cohorts (NL) included pre-treatment plasma samples of patients treated with neoadjuvant ICI therapy (OpACIN-neo and PRADO trials; NCT02977052). In the Dutch/Australian cohort a total of 11 patients with neurological irAEs were compared to 27 control patients (patients without neurological irAEs). The German cohort (LMU) consisted of serum samples of 13 patients with neurological irAE and 10 control patients without any documented irAE under ICI therapy. Results: The association of neurological irAEs with 21 possible preceding infections was assessed by measuring specific antibodies against investigated agents. The seroprevalence of all the tested viral (cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr-Virus, varicella-zoster virus, measles, rubella, influenza A and B, human herpes virus 6 and 7, herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, parvovirus B19, hepatitis A and E and human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 and 2), bacterial (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Campylobacter jejuni, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Coxiella burnetti, Helicobacter pylori, Yersinia enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis) and protozoal (Toxoplasma gondii) infections was similar for patients who developed neurological irAEs as compared to control patients. Thus, the analysis provided no evidence for an association of described agents tested for seroprevalence with ICI induced neurotoxicity. Conclusion: Previous viral, bacterial and protozoal neurotropic infections appear not to be associated with the development of neurological irAEs in melanoma patients who underwent therapy with ICI across 3 countries. Further efforts are needed to unravel the factors underlying neurological irAEs in order to identify risk factors for these toxicities, especially with the increasing use of ICI in earlier stage disease.

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Schmitt, C., Hoefsmit, E.P., Fangmeier, T., Kramer, N., Kabakci, C., Vera González, J.,... Heinzerling, L.M. (2023). Immune checkpoint inhibitor-induced neurotoxicity is not associated with seroprevalence of neurotropic infections. Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy.


Schmitt, C., et al. "Immune checkpoint inhibitor-induced neurotoxicity is not associated with seroprevalence of neurotropic infections." Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy (2023).

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