BACKGROUND: Influenza vaccination is recommended in patients with cancer to reduce influenza-related complications. Recently, more immune-related adverse events (irAEs) were demonstrated in patients with lung cancer who were vaccinated with the trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine during anti-programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) immunotherapy. Confirmation of these findings is essential before recommendations on influenza vaccination may be revoked.
METHODS: In this cohort study in patients with lung cancer receiving nivolumab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks during two influenza seasons (2015/16-2016/17), irAEs have been monitored. Incidence, timing and severity of irAEs were compared between vaccinated patients and non-vaccinated patients.
FINDINGS: In a compassionate use programme, 127 patients with lung cancer had been treated with at least one dose of nivolumab during two national influenza vaccination campaigns from September until December of 2015 and 2016. Forty-two patients had received the influenza vaccine, and 85 patients were not vaccinated. Median follow-up period was 118 days (interquartile range 106-119). Mean age was 64 years (range 46-83). In vaccinated and non-vaccinated patients, the incidence of irAEs was 26% and 22%, respectively, rate ratio 1.20 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.51-2.65). The incidence of serious irAEs was 7% and 4%, respectively, rate ratio 2.07 (95% CI 0.28-15.43). Influenza vaccination while receiving nivolumab did not result in significant differences in the rates of discontinuation, death, clinical deterioration or tumour response between the groups.
INTERPRETATION: Influenza vaccination in patients with lung cancer receiving anti-PD-1 immunotherapy does not induce irAEs in our cohort. With this result, influenza vaccination should not be deterred from this group of patients.