Cranial Nerve Disorders Associated With Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors


To describe the spectrum, treatment, and outcome of cranial nerve disorders associated with immune checkpoint inhibitor (Cn-ICI).


This nationwide retrospective cohort study on Cn-ICI (2015–2019) was conducted using the database of the French Refence Center. In addition, a systematic review of the literature (MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Science) for records published between 2010 and 2019 was performed following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines using the search terms cranial nerve or neuropathy or palsy and immune checkpoint inhibitors.


Among 67 cases with ICI-related neurologic toxicities diagnosed in our reference center, 9 patients with Cn-ICI were identified (7 men, 78%, median age 62 years [range 26–82 years]). Patients were receiving a combination of anti–cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 and anti–programmed cell death 1 (PD-1)/PD-1 ligand (n = 5, 56%) or anti–PD-1 antibodies alone (n = 4, 44%). Cn-ICI involved optic (n = 3), vestibulocochlear (n = 3), abducens (n = 2), facial (n = 2), and oculomotor (n = 1) nerves. Two patients had involvement of 2 different cranial nerves. Treatment comprised corticosteroids (n = 8, 89%), ICI permanent discontinuation (n = 7, 78%), plasma exchange (n = 2, 22%), and IV immunoglobulin (n = 1, 11%). Median follow-up was 11 months (range 1–41 months). In 3 cases (33%), neurologic deficit persisted/worsened despite treatment: 2 optic and 1 vestibulocochlear. Among cases from the literature and the present series combined (n = 39), the most commonly affected cranial nerves were facial (n = 13, 33%), vestibulocochlear (n = 8, 21%), optic (n = 7, 18%), and abducens (n = 4, 10%). Trigeminal, oculomotor, and glossopharyngeal nerves were less frequently affected (total n = 7).


Cranial nerve disorders can complicate treatment with ICIs. Approximately one-third of the patients had persisting deficits, most frequently involving hearing and vision loss.

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