European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO): Annual Flu Jab May Pose Greater Risk for Lung Cancer Patients Under Immunotherapy

Geneva, Switzerland, 26 April, 2017 – Lung cancer patients treated with immunotherapy may be at increased risk of adverse events after receiving the seasonal influenza vaccination, according to the first ever study measuring this effect. Results will be presented at the European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) 2017 in Geneva, by Dr Sacha Rothschild, University Hospital Basel, Division of Oncology, Switzerland.

Although routine influenza vaccination has long been recommended for cancer patients, there are concerns that it might trigger an exaggerated immune response in patients receiving immunotherapy, according to study authors, who cautioned that these preliminary results must now be tested in a larger study.

The present study assessed that there was an unusual high frequency of immune-related adverse events in cancer patients under immunotherapy who were vaccinated, with a quarter of them experiencing severe side-effects including skin rashes, arthritis, colitis, encephalitis, hypothyroidism, pneumonitis and neuropathy.

Commenting on these results, Professor Egbert Smit, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, said “This study shows how much we still have to learn about the optimal use of checkpoint inhibitors in lung cancer patients. The study is important as it is the first to investigate the impact of influenza vaccination in such patients and there is a hint that we actually put them at increased risk for serious toxicities including encephalitis. However, until we have data on a larger cohort, preferably in a controlled prospective study, we advocate influenza vaccination irrespective of concurrent treatment with immune-checkpoint inhibitors.”

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Notes to the Editor

ESMO is the leading professional organisation for medical oncology, with over 15,000 members representing oncology professionals from over 130 countries worldwide.

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