Painless thyroiditis and fulminant type 1 diabetes mellitus in a patient treated with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, nivolumab

Kanako Sakurai, Satsuki Niitsuma, Ryota Sato, Kazuhiro Takahashi, Zenei Arihara

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48 Citations (Scopus)


The programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) pathway is a novel therapeutic target in immune checkpoint therapy for cancer. Nivolumab, an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody, blocks PD-1 and can restore anti-cancer immune responses by disrupting the signal that inhibits T-cell activation. Nivolumab may induce endocrinerelated adverse events, including hypophysitis, autoimmune thyroiditis, and type 1 diabetes mellitus. Here we report a 68-year-old female patient with advanced renal cell carcinoma who was treated with nivolumab. She had positive anti-thyroglobulin antibodies and anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies with slightly elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (9.048 µ U/mL), and was diagnosed as chronic thyroiditis with subclinical hypothyroidism before nivolumab therapy. She developed painless thyroiditis after the first cycle of the therapy (Day 14). At the 7th cycle of nivolumab therapy (Day 98), hyperglycemia (473 mg/dL) was noted, whereas glycated hemoglobin level was 6.9%. Islet-related autoantibodies were all negative. The glucagon tolerance test showed complete depletion of insulin. Human leukocyte antigen typing showed haplotype DRB1*09:01-DQB1*03:03, which was reported to be closely associated with type 1 diabetes mellitus in Japan. Fulminant type 1 diabetes mellitus was diagnosed, and she was immediately treated with multiple daily injections of insulin. Fulminant type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by rapid-onset diabetic ketoacidosis, and negative islet-related autoantibodies, and was proposed as a novel subtype of non-autoimmune diabetes. Preceding painless thyroiditis with positive thyroid autoantibodies observed in the present case, however, raises the possibility that autoimmune mechanisms are involved in the pathogenesis of nivolumab-induced fulminant type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalTohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1


  • Autoimmune
  • Fulminant type 1 diabetes mellitus
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitor
  • Nivolumab
  • Painless thyroiditis


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