Pembrolizumab-Induced Hepatitis and Pancreatitis in a Patient With Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Rajveer Joea, Muhammad Mufti, Jennifer Oberhart, Sarkissian Sarmen


Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a novel approach to treat cancers. Firstly used for treatment of malignant melanomas with promising results, they were later expanded to treat other cancers including non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) expressing PD-L1. We present a case of a 66-year-old male who was admitted to the hospital for generalized gastrointestinal complaints consisting of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and loose stools occurring five times daily. Labs were significant for acute transaminitis with hyperbilirubinemia and elevated lipase. All workup for infectious and noninfectious causes was negative. The patient was started pembrolizumab 15 days before admission and his previous labs had all been normal before the initiation of treatment. He was treated with high dose of steroids with initial improvement and discharged on oral steroids taper. He subsequently presented again with worsening liver function tests (LFTs) results and was restarted on a higher dose but unable to tolerate it due to steroid-induced psychosis and left the hospital against medical advice. Presented the third time with persistent elevation of LFTs and worsening hyperbilirubinemia, this time he was started on different class of steroid with atypical antipsychotic but left again a few days later seeking care at a tertiary care institute. This case highlights one of the severe side effects of the immune checkpoint inhibitors which is acute hepatitis that can sometimes lead to acute liver failure. Prompt treatment with steroids is indicated for these patients; and those who are refractory or intolerant to steroids can be treated with a multimodal approach using topical steroids, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), ursodeoxycholic acid and immune suppressant drugs.

J Med Cases. 2018;9(9):320-322


PD-L1; Pembrolizumab-induced hepatitis; Pancreatitis; Non-small cell lung cancer

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