NYMC Faculty Publications

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors-Related Cardiotoxicity

Journal Title

American Journal of Therapeutics

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2019




BACKGROUND: Immunotherapy is a significant breakthrough in cancer therapy in the last decade. Immunotherapy is better tolerated compared with chemotherapy. However, it does have side effects, and one of the rare and serious side effects of immunotherapy is cardiotoxicity. Cardiotoxicity has been described with other cancer-related treatments such as chemotherapy and targeted therapy. A high index of suspicion is required, and prompt management with immunosuppression needs to be instituted as soon as possible to prevent fatal outcomes. AREAS OF UNCERTAINTY: Research is still ongoing to identify biomarkers that will help us to choose the patients, who will respond well to immunotherapy. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, tumor PD-L1 expression, and tumor mutational burden explored as potential biomarkers. There are no predictive biomarkers to identify patients who are at higher risk of severe cardiotoxicity. Both cardiologists and oncologists should be aware of cardiac toxicity from immune checkpoint inhibitors. CONCLUSION: All patients who are starting immune checkpoint inhibitors should undergo baseline cardiac risk factor assessment with referral to a cardiologist in a patient with multiple risk factors or previous history of cardiovascular disease. Cardiac immune-related adverse events are higher in patients taking combination therapy with anti-CTLA-4/anti-PD-1 agents compared with monotherapy. Patients with known cardiac comorbidities require a higher level of vigilance to monitor for cardiac toxicity because nonspecific symptoms can lead to rapid clinical deterioration and a higher rate of mortality when treated with checkpoint inhibitors.