The Use of Checkpoint Inhibitors in Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Pirogov Medical Center’s Experience)

VO Sarzhevskii, EA Demina, NE Mochkin, AA Spornik, AA Mamedova, EG Smirnova, AE Bannikova, AA Samoilova, VS Bogatyrev, OYu Bronov, YuA Abovich, VYa Melnichenko

NI Pirogov Russian National Medical Center of Surgery, 70 Nizhnyaya Pervomaiskaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 105203

For correspondence: Vladislav Olegovich Sarzhevskii, MD, PhD, 70 Nizhnyaya Pervomaiskaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 105203; Tel.: +7(495)603-72-17; e-mail:

For citation: Sarzhevskii VO, Demina EA, Mochkin NE, et al. The Use of Checkpoint Inhibitors in Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Pirogov Medical Center’s Experience). Clinical oncohematology. 2020;13(3):307–15 (In Russ).

DOI: 10.21320/2500-2139-2020-13-3-307-315


Background. Currently, there are neither systematic data nor clinical guidelines for checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy in cancer patients in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this respect classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cHL) is no exception. The article deals with the experience of Pirogov Medical Center (NI Pirogov Russian National Medical Center of Surgery) in PD-1-inhibitor immunotherapy in relapsed/refractory cHL in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors endeavour to cover matters of current interest concerning immunotherapy and differential diagnosis of pulmonary adverse events emerging in the context of new realities in providing medical care to cancer patients.

Aim. To assess feasibility and safety of checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy in relapsed/refractory cHL in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Materials & Methods. This is a retrospective analysis of adverse events of therapy and COVID-19 mortality, and incidence in 50 cHL patients who received immunotherapy at the Pirogov Medical Center in the period of spring COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Results. During the reported period (from March 11, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, to May 25, 2020) the group of 50 cHL patients showed relatively low overall incidence rate of newly diagnosed immune-mediated adverse events (14 %; n = 7). Severe adverse events were identified in 2 (4 %) patients. Bacterial infection incidence was 6 % (n = 3). Clinical signs of corona virus confirmed by subsequent laboratory COVID-19 tests were observed in 2 (4 %) patients. One patient died due to the non-COVID-19-associated reason. The main issue the center’s staff was faced with was the need for differential diagnosis between drug-induced (as well as immune-mediated) pulmonitis and COVID-19-associated pneumonia.

Conclusion. The retrospective analysis reveals that PD-1-inhibitor immunotherapy in cHL patients during the COVID-19 pandemic is a feasible method of therapy, but it requires high awareness. Special focus should be given to clinical and radiological similarities of COVID-19-associated pneumonia and pulmonitis as a complication of immunotherapy.

Keywords: classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, immunotherapy, PD-1-inhibitors, COVID-19 pandemic.

Received: May 29, 2020

Accepted: June 28, 2020

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