The European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine is an official Journal of the European Federation of Internal Medicine (EFIM), representing 36 national societies from 34 European countries. The Journal's mission is to promote the best medical practice and innovation in the field of acute and general medicine. It also provides a forum for internal medicine doctors where they can share new approaches with the aim of improving diagnostic and clinical skills in this field.

Clara Long, Abdulrahman Al-Abdulmalek, Jonathan Lai, David G. Haegert, Stephane Isnard, Denis Cournoyer, Jean-Pierre Routy

Background: Autoimmune diseases are not contraindications for immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) therapy in patients with cancer. However, immune-related adverse events (irAEs) are frequently observed in patients receiving ICIs including dermatitis, thyroiditis, colitis, and pneumonitis. Thrombocytopenic purpura, aplasia, and haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) are rarely observed during ICIs.
Case description: We report the case of a male patient with pre-existing untreated HLA B27 and ankylosing spondylitis with gastric cancer and liver metastases. The 79-year-old man was treated with anti-HER2 trastuzumab and anti-PD-1 nivolumab. Seventeen days after the seventh cycle of treatment, he presented at the emergency department with acute fever, confusion, and hypotension. Laboratory results showed pancytopenia, and elevation of ferritin and triglyceride. No infections were detected. Although not seen in a bone marrow biopsy, clinical presentation, and absence of infection, together with an H-score of 263, indicated HLH. The patient was treated with dexamethasone for four days and discharged on a tapering dose of steroids. At the two-month follow-up, clinical presentation was normal and blood test almost normalised. At 8 months, no liver metastases were observed.
Conclusion: In a patient with a pre-existing autoimmune condition, immunotherapy led to the development of HLH, which was controlled by glucocorticoid. Absence of the feature of haemophagocytosis in the bone marrow biopsy did not exclude the diagnosis, as HLH can occur in the spleen or in the liver. Glucocorticoid therapy did not prevent the anti-cancer effect of ICIs, and liver metastases disappeared 8 months post-HLH. This case warrants further research on the interplay between autoimmunity and ICI response, as well as ICI-induced irAEs.

2024: Vol 11 No 4