Immune toxicities and long remission duration following ipilimumab therapy for metastatic melanoma: two illustrative cases

H. Assi, K.S. Wilson


New antitumour immunotherapy strategies for stage iv metastatic melanoma include ipilimumab, a monoclonal antibody against ctla-4. Patterns of response with cancer immunotherapy differ from those with cytotoxic chemotherapy. We present two cases of longduration immune-related responses with ipilimumab in a phase ii trial.

A 66-year-old woman with multiple lung metastases from a scalp primary melanoma received 4 doses of ipilimumab with mixed clinical response. However, after the first maintenance dose, she developed severe ileitis and colitis that responded to steroid therapy. Four months later, she had surgery and radiotherapy for a single brain metastasis. Radiologically, stable disease continued for 36 months after the last ipilimumab dose, and partial response for 5 years after ipilimumab start.

A 54-year-old man with cervical lymph node and pulmonary metastases from a scalp primary melanoma received three induction doses of ipilimumab. He developed alopecia universalis and widespread vitiligo, and he discontinued treatment because of hypophysitis. Maintenance ipilimumab was started after a 6-month drug-free interval, with no further adverse events over 15 cycles. At week 12, computed tomography imaging showed no lung metastases and partial response in a supraclavicular lymph node, which was positive on positron-emission tomography. Five years after starting ipilimumab, the supraclavicular lymph node was calcified, and the patient was off steroid therapy and asymptomatic.

The foregoing patients demonstrate long responses with ipilimumab (in association with delayed severe colitis in one case, and a constellation of immune events, including alopecia universalis in another). Re-treatment with ipilimumab may be possible even after significant immune adverse events.


Ipilimumab; melanoma; immune response; safety

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)