J Immunother Cancer. 2020 Dec;8(2):e001593. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2020-001593.
The COVID-19 outbreak caused by SARS-CoV-2 challenges the medical system by interfering with routine therapies for many patients with chronic diseases. In patients with cancer receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), difficulties also arise from the incomplete understanding of the intricate interplay between their routine treatment and pathogenesis of the novel virus. By referring to previous ICI-based investigations, we speculate that ICIs themselves are not linked to high-infection risks of respiratory diseases or inflammation-related adverse effects in patients with cancer. Moreover, ICI treatment may even enhance coronavirus clearance in some patients with malignant tumor by boosting antiviral T-cell responsiveness. However, the 'explosive' inflammation during COVID-19 in some ICI-treated patients with cancer was illustrated as exuberant immunopathological damage or even death. In case of the COVID-19 immunopathogenesis fueled by ICIs, we propose a regular monitor of pathogenic T-cell subsets and their exhaustion marker expression (eg, Th17 and interleukin (IL)-6-producing Th1 subsets with surface programmed death 1 expression) to guide the usage of ICI. Here we aimed to address these considerations, based on available literature and experience from our practice, that may assist with the decision-making of ICI administration during the pandemic.