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Positron emission tomography as an adjuvant diagnostic test in the evaluation of checkpoint inhibitor-associated acute interstitial nephritis

  • Qualls, David1
  • Seethapathy, Harish2
  • Bates, Halla3
  • Tajmir, Shahein1
  • Heidari, Pedram1
  • Endres, Paul2
  • Reynolds, Kerry4
  • Lawrence, Donald4
  • Sise, Meghan2
  • 1 Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 2 Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, 165 Cambridge Street Suite 302, Boston, MA, 02114, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 3 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 4 Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA , Boston (United States)
Published Article
Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Dec 21, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s40425-019-0820-9
Springer Nature


BackgroundAcute interstitial nephritis is an immune-related adverse event that can occur in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Differentiating checkpoint inhibitor-associated acute interstitial nephritis from other causes of acute kidney injury in patients with cancer is challenging and can lead to diagnostic delays and/or unwarranted immunosuppression. In this case report, we assess the use of 18F-flourodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography imaging as an alternative diagnostic modality in the evaluation of potential acute interstitial nephritis.Case presentationA 55-year-old woman with metastatic vulvar melanoma underwent treatment with two cycles of ipilimumab plus nivolumab, followed by seven cycles of nivolumab combined with radiation therapy. During her treatment, she developed non-oliguric acute kidney injury to a creatinine of 4.5 mg/dL from a baseline of 0.5 mg/dL. A clinical diagnosis of acute interstitial nephritis was made, and steroids were initiated, with rapid improvement of her acute kidney injury. Retrospectively, four positron-emission tomography scans obtained for cancer staging purposes were reviewed. We found a markedly increased 18F-flourodeoxyglucose uptake in the renal cortex at the time acute interstitial nephritis was diagnosed compared to baseline. In three cases of acute kidney injury due to alternative causes there was no increase in 18F-flourodeoxyglucose uptake from baseline.ConclusionsTo our knowledge, this is the first report describing increased 18F-flourodeoxyglucose uptake in the renal cortex in a patient with checkpoint inhibitor-associated acute interstitial nephritis. Our findings suggest that 18F-flourodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography may be a valuable test for diagnosing immune-mediated nephritis, particularly in patients where timely kidney biopsy is not feasible.

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