Toxicity in combination immune checkpoint inhibitor and radiation therapy: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Congzhou M. Sha, Eric J. Lehrer, Clara Hwang, Daniel M. Trifiletti, Heath B. Mackley, Joseph J. Drabick, Nicholas G. Zaorsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Background and purpose: Immune checkpoint inhibitor with radiation therapy (ICI + RT) is under investigation for improved patient outcome, so we performed a systematic review/meta-analysis of toxicities for ICI + RT compared to immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy alone. Materials and methods: A PRISMA-compliant systematic review of studies in MEDLINE (PubMed) and in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines was conducted, with primary outcome grade 3 + toxicity. Criteria for ICI alone were: phase III/IV trials that compared immunotherapy to placebo, chemotherapy, or alternative immunotherapy; and for ICI + RT: prospective/retrospective studies with an arm treated with ICI + RT. Meta-analysis was performed by random effects models using the DerSimonian and Laird method. The I2 statistic and Cochran's Q test were used to assess heterogeneity, while funnel plots and Egger's test assessed publication bias. Results: This meta-analysis included 51 studies (n = 15,398), with 35 ICI alone (n = 13,956) and 16 ICI + RT studies (n = 1,442). Our models showed comparable grade 3–4 toxicities in ICI + RT (16.3%; 95% CI, 11.1–22.3%) and ICI alone (22.3%; 95% CI, 18.1–26.9%). Stratification by timing of radiation and irradiated site showed no significant differences, but anti-CTLA-4 therapy and melanoma showed increased toxicity. The grade 5 toxicities were 1.1% and 1.9% for ICI alone and ICI + RT respectively. There was significant heterogeneity, but not publication bias. Conclusions: The random effects model showed comparable grade 3–4 toxicity in using ICI + RT compared to ICI alone in CNS melanoma metastases, NSCLC, and prostate cancer. ICI + RT is safe for future clinical trials in these cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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