A recent study published in the journal JAMA Oncology has shown that the use of corticosteroids during treatment with nivolumab for kidney cancer that has spread (metastatic kidney cancer) did not affect survival compared with patients whose side effects were not treated with corticosteroids.

Patients with metastatic kidney cancer are often treated with the immunotherapy, nivolumab. Any side effects related to nivolumab are typically treated with corticosteroids, which suppress the immune system. However, there is growing concern that corticosteroids could affect the effectiveness of immunotherapy and, therefore, patient survival.

Read more about immunotherapy side effects here: Immunotherapy Side Effects: ‘No Organ System Potentially Unaffected’

In this study, researchers looked at the link between corticosteroids and patient survival during treatment with nivolumab for metastatic kidney cancer. There were 113 patients who were treated with corticosteroids in the study. These patients were followed up for an average of 2 years. The average time between starting nivolumab treatment and the use of corticosteroids in these patients was nearly 22 weeks.

Nearly three quarters of patients were given corticosteroids to treat nivolumab side effects. Other reasons for the use of corticosteroids were infections, side effects to radiotherapy, and COPD.

At 1 year, the researchers found that patients on corticosteroids had a longer overall survival time compared to those not on corticosteroids. Also the time before the nivolumab stopped working and the cancer started growing again (progression-free survival) was longer for patients taking corticosteroids

Read more in Cure here