In a nutshell
This study evaluated the quality of life for survivors of melanoma who received immunotherapy. This study found that melanoma survivors had a significantly lower quality of life compared to the general population.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a new class of anti-cancer drugs that take advantage of the patient's immune system to kill cancer cells. Nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) are two examples. These agents bind to cancer cells, marking them as targets for the body’s immune system. This leads to cancer cell death.
However, immune checkpoint inhibitors are associated with side effects. These can have long-term consequences that affect a patient's quality of life after treatment. The impact of this type of treatment on quality of life for survivors of metastatic melanoma is under investigation.
Methods & findings
This study had 84 patients with advanced melanoma that had spread (metastatic). All patients were treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. All patients completed a survey about their quality of life, including any side effects experienced during treatment. Survey results were compared to survey data from a general population (healthy individuals). Patients were followed-up for an average of 25 months.
90% of all patients responded to treatment. 10% of patients had stable disease (no tumor shrinkage or growth).
Overall, the patients in this study reported a significantly lower quality of life compared to the normal population. The poorest scoring areas were physical functioning, social functioning, physical role functioning, and general health. Elderly patients reported significantly poorer physical functioning compared to younger patients.
Overall, 92% of all patients reported side effects from treatment. The most common side effects included skin issues (70%), colon inflammation (30%), and muscle pain (27%).
43% of patients had serious side effects. Almost half (49%) of all patients needed steroid treatment for these side effects. 39% of patients stopped treatment due to side effects.
The bottom line
This study concluded that survivors of melanoma treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors have a lower quality of life after treatment.
The fine print
This was a very small study. Also, 29.7% of the patients in this study were still undergoing treatment when these results were analyzed. These results may have differed if these patients were also surveyed after finishing treatment.
Published By :
Supportive care in cancer: official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer
May 14, 2019