BMJ Case Reports 2016; doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-217454

Glucocorticoids did not reverse type 1 diabetes mellitus secondary to pembrolizumab in a patient with metastatic melanoma

  1. Grant McArthur4,5
  1. 1Monash Health, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, Cancer Medicine, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Department of Medical Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jasna Aleksova, jasnaaleksova{at}
  • Accepted 9 November 2016
  • Published 23 November 2016


Immune checkpoint inhibitors offer patients with advanced melanoma substantial improvements in survival. Unlike chemotherapy, immune checkpoint inhibitors such as ipilimumab and pembrolizumab cause unique immune-related adverse events (irAEs), including the development of endocrinopathies. We report a case of a man aged 60 years who developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) following the use of pembrolizumab for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. He received four cycles of ipilimumab, before proceeding to pembrolizumab. Five weeks after initiating pembrolizumab, he presented in DKA with a pH of 7.0, bicarbonate of 7 mmol/L, blood glucose of 27 mmol/L and serum ketones of 5.9 mmol/L. Antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (anti-GAD) and Islet antigen 2 (IA-2) were negative and C-peptide was low at 57 pmol/L (300–2350 pmol/L). There was no personal or family history of autoimmune conditions. Standard immunosuppression for irAEs was started using prednisolone in an attempt to salvage β cell function but was unsuccessful. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported attempt at reversing pembrolizumab-induced type 1 diabetes using glucocorticoids.


  • Jasna Aleksova and Pete K H Lau are joint first authors.

  • Contributors JA is responsible for involvement in case, manuscript preparation and writing. PL is responsible for involvement in case, manuscript preparation and writing. JA and PL are equal first authors. GS is responsible for assistance in case management and manuscript editing. GM is responsible for assistance in case management and manuscript editing.

  • Competing interests PL has received honoraria and travel funding from Bristol Myers Squibb.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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