Lower baseline autoantibody levels are associated with immune-related adverse events from immune checkpoint inhibition

Nilasha Ghosh, Michael Postow, Chengsong Zhu, Deanna Jannat-Khah, Quan Zhen Li, Greg Vitone, Karmela K. Chan, Anne R. Bass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Introduction Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) are a novel cancer therapeutic that have been successful in treating advanced malignancies; however, they also cause immune-related adverse events (irAE). Given that some irAE are clinically similar to traditional autoimmune diseases, autoantibodies have been suggested as possible biomarkers of irAE. However, there are very little data on autoantibody investigation prior to ICI. Our aim was to determine if specific baseline autoantibodies were associated with irAE and see if changes in autoantibody concentration corresponded with irAE development. Methods This study used data from an oncologic clinical trial of adaptive dosing combination ICI therapy in patients with advanced melanoma. Plasma was collected at baseline and 6 weeks after ICI initiation and tested in a microarray of 120 autoantigens commonly associated with autoimmune disease, as well as antinuclear antibody (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody (anti-CCP). Autoantibody concentrations were compared between patients experiencing an organ-specific event versus not. Heatmaps, volcano plots and hierarchical clustering were used to determine autoantibody concentration differences among irAE patient clusters as defined by signal intensity of autoantibodies. Kaplan-Meier curves were created and a log-rank test was performed to assess differences in survival. Results The microarray analysis demonstrated that patients who experienced specific irAE had fewer differentially expressed autoantibodies at baseline than those that did not have those specific irAE, and a greater fold change (FC) in antibody concentration from baseline to 6 weeks corresponded with specific irAE development. However, no autoantibodies were identified as being predictive of specific events. Time to first irAE was less than 6 weeks in 69% of patients, and these patients had less autoantibodies at baseline. Considering ANA, RF and CCP autoantibodies, there were no significant differences between the seropositive and seronegative patients in irAE development, severity, timing or survival. Conclusion Patients with low autoantibody concentrations at baseline as well as a greater FC in autoantibody concentration over 6 weeks developed more distinct organ-specific irAE. This may suggest differences in the balance of cellular immunity and humoral pathways that are relevant in the pathogenesis of irAE, though further investigation is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere004008
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 28 2022


  • antibody formation
  • autoimmunity
  • humoral
  • immunity
  • immunotherapy
  • melanoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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