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Papers of the Week

2022 Aug




Exploring a New Entity of Single-Agent Pembrolizumab-Associated Hypophysitis.


Balti E, Verhaeghe S, Kruse V, Roels S, Coremans P
Cureus. 2022 Aug; 14(8):e27763.
PMID: 36127991.


Hypophysitis is the inflammation of the pituitary gland primary or secondary to local or systemic disease. It tends to occur more with cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 inhibitors (10-15% of cases), which is a different entity compared to that associated with anti-program death 1 (anti-PD1) inhibitors. We describe a case of pembrolizumab-associated hypophysitis and conduct a systematic review of the literature. A 55-year-old woman with stage pT3aN1a (TNM stadium IIIb) melanoma presented with headache, nausea and fatigue three and a half months after starting pembrolizumab. Blood analyses revealed secondary adrenal failure, thyrotropic insufficiency and defective gonadotrophin secretion. An imaging study showed an enlarged pituitary gland with a homogeneous enhancement of the gland and pituitary stalk. Interruption of anti-PD1 therapy and administration of hormonal supplementation lead to clinical, biological and radiologic improvement after eight months. We identified 17 studies (20 patients) on single-agent pembrolizumab-associated hypophysitis. Patients were treated for melanoma (n=7; 33.3%), urogenital (n=5 ; 23.8%), lung (n=4 ; 19.0%), larynx (n=1 ; 4.8%), pharynx (n=1, 4.8%), breast (n=1, 4.8%) and colon (n=1, 4.8%) neoplasia. The time to onset of pituitary insufficiency was most frequently six months (range 1.5-39.0 months) after treatment initiation. The most prevalent hormonal defect was isolated adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) deficiency. Four cases were reported with multiple central hormonal defects. In those patients, an enlarged pituitary gland was also observed. Our case has distinct features, including early disease onset after single-agent pembrolizumab initiation, panhypopituitarism and increased pituitary mass. These findings are in contrast with the majority of other cases of pembrolizumab-induced hypophysitis, as most patients present an isolated ACTH deficiency. Whether or not this is a new clinical entity warrants further investigation.