Researchers at Severance Hospital have identified the risk of developing diabetes using immunotherapy.
Immunotherapies are drugs that prevent cancer cells from evading the body's immune system, allowing immune cells to better recognize and attack cancer cells.
After the first immunotherapy agent received approval in 2011, it is rapidly emerging as a new cancer treatment option, with 44 percent of cancer patients in the U.S. receiving treatment with immunotherapy as of 2018, the hospital said.
However, when immune cells are excessively activated due to the use of immunotherapies, side effects such as inflammation of endocrine organs may occur in some cases.
Notably, diabetes caused by inflammation of the pancreas can accompany serious, life-threatening complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis.
While the incidence of diabetes mellitus induced by immunotherapies are significantly low, studies on how much the risk of developing diabetes increases compared to traditional cytotoxic anticancer drugs and the characteristics of the high-risk group for the side effects are still lacking.
To resolve this issue, the team, led by Professors Lee Min-young, Rhee Yum-ie, and Park Yu-rang and researcher Jeong Kyeong-seob, compared and analyzed the risk of developing diabetes among 221 patients who received immunotherapy and 1,105 patients who used traditional cytotoxic anticancer drugs among patients who visited Severance Hospital between 2005 and 2020.
As a result, the risk of developing new diabetes was 2.45 times higher in the group using immunotherapies than in the group using traditional cytotoxic anticancer drugs.
After drug use, the percentage of patients with elevated blood sugar over time was also higher in the immunotherapy group (10.4 percent) than in the traditional anticancer drug use group (7.4 percent).
The research team also analyzed the clinical features and characteristics of a group with elevated blood sugar among patients who received immunotherapies.
As a result, among patients who used immunotherapies, patients with elevated blood sugar showed that their average blood sugar exceeded 126 mg/dL, the standard for diabetic diagnosis, within three months of using immunotherapies.
Also, 87 percent of the group with elevated blood glucose was male, and lymphocytosis after the use of immunotherapies was more prominent compared to the group with stable blood sugar.
"Based on the risk of immunotherapy-induced diabetes confirmed through this study and the clinical characteristics of patients, we expect that it will be possible to predict and select high-risk groups to establish treatment strategies," Professor Rhee said.
Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental published the results of the study.