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Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have improved cancer outcomes but can cause severe immune-related adverse events (irAEs) and flares of autoimmune conditions in cancer patients with pre-existing autoimmune disease. The objective of this study was to identify the information physicians perceived as most useful for these patients when discussing treatment initiation with ICIs. Twenty physicians at a cancer institution with experience in the treatment of irAEs were interviewed. Qualitative thematic analysis was performed to organize and interpret data. The physicians were 11 medical oncologists and 9 non-oncology specialists. The following themes were identified: (1) current methods used by physicians to provide information to patients and delivery options; (2) factors to make decisions about whether or not to start ICIs in patients who have cancer and pre-existing autoimmune conditions; (3) learning points for patients to understand; (4) preferences for the delivery of ICI information; and (5) barriers to the implementation of ICI information in clinics. Regarding points to discuss with patients, physicians agreed that the benefits of ICIs, the probability of irAEs, and risks of underlying autoimmune condition flares with the use of ICIs were most important. Non-oncologists were additionally concerned about how ICIs affect the autoimmune disease (e.g., impact on disease activity, need for changes in medications for the autoimmune disease, and monitoring of autoimmune conditions).


Autoimmune Diseases, Immunotherapy, Patient Education, Qualitative Interviews



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