Raising awareness of immune-related side effects in oncological patients under palliative care: a report of two cases

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



BACKGROUND: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) have emerged as a successful treatment option for diverse cancer entities. However, ICI therapy can be associated with immune-related adverse events (irAE) that can affect any organ system. These side effects can be severe, irreversible and sometimes even fatal. Due to the presentation as diverse and often unspecific clinical patterns, end-of-life care concepts may be pursued hastily suspecting disease progression in oncological patients receiving palliative care (PC).

CASE DESCRIPTION: This report describes two cancer patients whose symptom burden was caused by such irAEs: One patient with metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) presenting with disorientation and urinary incontinence, another patient with metastatic melanoma presenting with a sudden and unspecific deterioration of the overall condition. After imaging and blood sampling, an encephalitis and an immune-mediated diabetes mellitus were diagnosed. After treatment with corticosteroids and hydration alongside insulin substitution both patients experienced a complete symptom relief.

CONCLUSIONS: We aim to emphasize the importance of continued collaboration between primary care givers and PC teams as well as raise awareness among PC providers of severe immune-related side effects in cancer patients receiving ICI. Especially within this patient cohort, PC teams play a crucial part in detecting possible irAEs, which resolve in the majority of cases when receiving early guideline-adapted treatment.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-833
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of palliative medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0003-4340-9706/work/151982840



  • Humans, Palliative Care, Carcinoma, Squamous Cell/drug therapy, Skin Neoplasms, Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions, Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing