Association of steroids use with survival in patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Fausto Petrelli, Diego Signorelli, Michele Ghidini, Antonio Ghidini, Elio Gregory Pizzutilo, Lorenzo Ruggieri, Mary Cabiddu, Karen Borgonovo, Giuseppina Dognini, Matteo Brighenti, Alessandro De Toma, Erika Rijavec, Marina Chiara Garassino, Francesco Grossi, Gianluca Tomasello

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) can elicit toxicities by inhibiting negative regulators of adaptive immunity. Sometimes, management of toxicities may require systemic glucocorticoids. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to evaluate the correlation between steroids use, overall survival (OS), and progression-free survival (PFS) in cancer patients treated with ICIs. Publications that compared steroids with non-steroid users in cancer patients treated with ICIs from inception to June 2019 were identified by searching the EMBASE, PubMed, SCOPUS, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library databases. The pooled hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using a random-effects model. Patients (studies, n = 16; patients, n = 4045) taking steroids were at increased risk of death and progression compared to those not taking steroids (HR = 1.54, 95% CI: 1.24–1.91; p = 0.01 and HR = 1.34, 95% CI: 1.02–1.76; p = 0.03, respectively). The main negative effect on OS was associated with patients taking steroids for supportive care (HR = 2.5, 95% CI 1.41–4.43; p < 0.01) or brain metastases (HR = 1.51, 95% CI 1.22–1.87; p < 0.01). In contrast, steroids used to mitigate adverse events did not negatively affect OS. In conclusion, caution is needed when steroids are used for symptom control. In these patients, a negative impact of steroid use was observed for both OS and PFS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number546
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Immune-related adverse events
  • Immunotherapy
  • Meta-analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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