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Open access

Osamah A Hakami, Julia Ioana, Shahzad Ahmad, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Summary

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have revolutionised cancer therapy and improved outcomes for patients with advanced disease. Pembrolizumab, a monoclonal antibody that acts as a programmed cell death 1 (PD-1(PDCD1)) inhibitor, has been approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma and other solid tumours. Immune-related adverse events (irAEs) including endocrinopathies have been well described with this and other PD-1 inhibitors. While hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and less commonly hypophysitis, are the most common endocrinopathies occurring in patients treated with pembrolizumab, the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) was low in clinical trials. We report a case of pembrolizumab-induced primary hypothyroidism and T1DM presenting with severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). A 52-year-old male patient was treated with pembrolizumab for metastatic melanoma. He presented to the emergency department with a 1-day history of nausea and vomiting 2 weeks after his seventh dose of pembrolizumab, having complained of polyuria and polydipsia for 2 months before presentation. He had been diagnosed with thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody-negative hypothyroidism, requiring thyroxine replacement, shortly after his fifth dose. Testing revealed a severe DKA (pH: 6.99, glucose: 38.6 mmol/L, capillary ketones: 4.9 and anion gap: 34.7). He was treated in the intensive care unit as per the institutional protocol, and subsequently transitioned to subcutaneous basal-bolus insulin. After his diabetes and thyroid stabilised, pembrolizumab was recommenced to treat his advanced melanoma given his excellent response. This case highlights the importance of blood glucose monitoring as an integral part of cancer treatment protocols composed of pembrolizumab and other ICIs.

Learning points:

  • The incidence of T1DM with pembrolizumab treatment is being increasingly recognised and reported, and DKA is a common initial presentation.
  • Physicians should counsel patients about this potential irAE and educate them about the symptoms of hyperglycaemia and DKA.
  • The ESMO guidelines recommend regular monitoring of blood glucose in patients treated with ICIs, a recommendation needs to be incorporated into cancer treatment protocols for pembrolizumab and other ICIs in order to detect hyperglycaemia early and prevent DKA.
Open access

Marcos M Lima-Martínez, Ernesto Guerra-Alcalá, Miguel Contreras, José Nastasi, Janelle A Noble and Constantin Polychronakos

Summary

Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a chronic disease characterized by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells. This paper describes the case of a 19-year-old male patient who presented with glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibody positive and diabetic ketoacidosis, which mandated intensive insulin treatment. Once the ketoacidosis was controlled, an oral dose of 100 mg of sitagliptin was administered once a day. Ketoacidosis was managed by insulin and insulin daily requirement began to dwindle after one month, until its complete withdrawal at 8 weeks, when partial remission was reached. The patient has now remained on sitagliptin treatment alone for a year, without requiring insulin. The benefit observed with this medication is possibly associated with its immunological effects. Inhibition of dipeptidyl peptidase 4 in animal models deregulates the Th1 immune response, increases secretion of Th2 cytokines, activates CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T-cells, and prevents IL17 production.

Learning points

  • The use of insulin-dose-adjusted HbA1c constitutes the best way to define partial remission in T1DM patients.
  • The use of sitagliptin in T1DM patients could help to decrease daily requirement of insulin by delaying β-cell loss and improving endogenous insulin production.
  • The determination of antibodies against insulin, islet cells, and GAD permits differentiation of T1DM patients from those with atypical or ketosis-prone diabetes.