Cardiovascular Complications Associated With Novel Cancer Immunotherapies

Varun Jain, Jaspreet Bahia, Mahsa Mohebtash, Ana Barac
Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine 2017, 19 (5): 36
Immune therapies represent a quantum leap in the fight against cancer. Recently approved immune checkpoint inhibitors that target receptors involved in immune escape of cancer cells (including cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4), programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1), and programmed cell death protein ligand-1 (PD-L1) are increasingly being used for therapeutic benefit in a number of cancers. The robust anti-cancer activity of these agents has been accompanied by the recognition of new adverse effects, often due to the over activation of immune system, that may limit their therapeutic benefit and adversely impact outcomes. Combination treatments in particular, such as approaches using two targeted immunotherapy agents, have higher risk of adverse effects. Our review focuses on the approved checkpoint inhibitor therapies and their potential for cardiovascular toxicity. While very few cases of autoimmune cardiotoxicity and myocarditis have been reported in clinical trials, severe, life-threatening episodes of heart failure and hemodynamic compromise associated with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors have recently been reported in the literature. Early recognition, diagnosis, and management of autoimmune myocarditis represent an important clinical challenge with no current guidelines available for prevention, identification, and treatment of this serious condition. This area of cardio-oncology is evolving rapidly as more drugs in this class are being discovered and pending approval. There is a need for future studies focused on prospective identification of biomarkers and clinical standards for treatment and long-term follow-up of cardiovascular toxicity to successfully continue the treatment of cancer while preventing the adverse outcomes with novel immune therapies.

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