NSCLC case study: when is chemotherapy-only preferred over chemotherapy plus ICI?

  • Cui W & al.
  • JCO Oncol Pract
  • 11 Sep 2020

  • curated by Kelli Whitlock Burton
  • Univadis Clinical Summaries
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  • Initial treatment with chemotherapy only may be preferable to an immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI)-based regimen in never-smokers with NSCLC, pending results of tissue-based next-generation sequencing to identify oncogenic driver.
  • A new report describes a fatal skin immune-related adverse event (irAE) in a patient after switching from ICI treatment to osimertinib.

Why this matters

  • Switching to a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) such as osimertinib after treatment with an ICI is uncommon and has been associated with severe irAEs, similar to those seen with concurrent TKI-immunotherapy treatment.

Patient characteristics

  • A South Asian female never-smoker, aged 72 years, with stage IVB NSCLC, adenocarcinoma subtype.
  • EGFR was wild-type on tissue and circulating tumor DNA, negative for ALK and ROS1, and PD-L1
  • Patient received 2 cycles of chemotherapy (carboplatin and pemetrexed), followed by 2 cycles of chemotherapy plus pembrolizumab, with no irAEs.
  • Genotyping revealed a rare EGFR exon 20 insertion, prompting a switch to osimertinib 3 weeks after the last chemo-immunotherapy treatment.

Key results

  • 3 weeks after osimertinib initiation, the patient was admitted with diarrhea, severe stomatitis, and widespread maculopapular blanching rash.
  • Osimertinib was discontinued; the patient received intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics, topical emollients, and hydrocortisone.
  • Patient was diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis after dermatoses spread to >90% of her body surface area and she developed epidermal necrolysis with a positive Nikolsky sign.
  • After transfer to ICU, she received high-dose IV methylprednisolone, IV immunoglobulin, nasogastric-enteral feeding, and dressings.
  • Skin biopsy showed an intense interface inflammatory infiltrate with basal vaculoar degeneration and formation of several apoptotic bodies.
  • Patient died 19 days after admission.


  • Single-patient case study.