Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) have become the standard of care treatment for several tumor types. ICI-induced pneumonitis is a serious complication seen with treatment with these agents. Cancer has been reported to be one of the risk factors for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), that has engulfed the world in the last couple of months. In patients with cancer treated with ICI who present at the emergency department with respiratory symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic, correct diagnosis can be challenging. Symptoms and radiological features of ICI pneumonitis can be overlapping with those of COVID-19 related pneumonia. For the latter, dexamethasone and remdesivir have shown encouraging results, while vaccines are currently being evaluated in phase III trials. The mainstay of treatment in ICI pneumonitis is immunosuppressive therapy, as this is a potentially fatal adverse event. It has been speculated that immunosuppression may be associated with increased risk of progression to severe COVID-19, especially during the early stage of infection with SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, distinction between these two entities is warranted. We summarize the clinical, radiological features as well as additional investigations of both entities, and suggest a diagnostic algorithm for distinction between the two. This algorithm may be a supportive tool for clinicians to diagnose the underlying cause of the pneumonitis in patients treated with ICI during this COVID-19 pandemic.
- IMMUNE CHECKPOINT INHIBITORS
- immune check inhibitor (ICI)