Grand Rounds

Brentuximab Vedotin Infusion Reaction Management: A Case Study

Holly Comer, MSN, APRN, and Kimbra Cardwell, MSN, APRN

Washington University School of Medicine, Siteman Cancer Center, St. Louis, Missouri

Authors’ disclosures of potential conflicts of interest are found at the end of this article.

Holly Comer, MSN, APRN, 660 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110. E-mail:

J Adv Pract Oncol 2017;8:626–629 | | © 2017 Harborside Press®



We report a case of a grade 3 (Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events [CTCAE]) infusion reaction to brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris), in a patient with refractory Hodgkin lymphoma, at a large National Cancer Institute–designated cancer center in the Midwest (National Cancer Institute, 2010). Acute infusion reaction management and subsequent premedication strategies are outlined.

Ms. R is a 30-year-old woman who presented with stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 29. Initial staging revealed lymphadenopathy above and below the diaphragm, as well as fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-avid lung lesions, splenic lesions, and multiple sites of bony involvement. Bone marrow biopsy was negative.

She was treated with six cycles of chemotherapy with doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD), to which she obtained a complete response by positron emission tomography–computed tomography (PET-CT) criteria. Ten months after chemotherapy completion, she presented with new PET-avid adenopathy in the cervical and paratracheal regions, and a biopsy revealed recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma. Salvage chemotherapy was administered with ifosfamide carboplatin, and etoposide (ICE). After two cycles of salvage chemotherapy, a PET-CT confirmed a complete response, and she proceeded to an autologous stem cell transplant with a preparative regimen of carmustine, etoposide, cytosine arabinoside, and melphalan (BEAM).

Brentuximab vedotin consolidation therapy was prescribed in the post-transplant consolidation setting, beginning 45 days after stem cell reinfusion, given the patient’s high risk for recurrence. This strategy was based upon the results of the AETHERA phase III clinical trial (Mosko-
witz et al., 2015), showing improvement in progression-free survival with brentuximab vedotin consolidation therapy, post autologous transplant.

The first dose of brentuximab vedotin was administered without difficulty, at full dose (1.8 mg/kg) at a standard infusion time of 30 minutes. The second dose of brentuximab vedotin was complicated by nausea, chest pain, and dysphagia within 10 minutes of medication initiation. Upon the emergence of these symptoms, the brentuximab vedotin infusion was held. Vital signs were stable, with a temperature of 36.9˚C, pulse 84, respirations of 20, and blood pressure of 107/67 mm Hg. Oxygen saturations were 99% on room air. Diphenhydramine (50 mg) was administered intravenously (IV), along with 20 mg of IV famotidine. An electrocardiogram (ECG) was obtained, which was unremarkable, showing normal sinus rhythm. Fifteen minutes later, the symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath persisted, so hydrocortisone at 100 mg IV was administered, with an additional 25 mg of IV diphenhydramine and 20 mg of IV famotidine. Intraveous granisetron was given for nausea. Thirty minutes after onset, the chest pain was persistent, and oxygen saturations were normal. Hydrocortisone (50 mg) was administered intravenously, and Ms. R’s condition improved, with resolution of her symptoms within 30 minutes of the second hydrocortisone dose.

The brentuximab vedotin was restarted 30 minutes after symptom resolution at a decreased infusion rate to be administered over 60 minutes. Thirty minutes later, however, Ms. R developed tingling and numbness in her feet and tongue. The brentuximab vedotin infusion was again held, and 100 mg of IV methylprednisolone was administered. Ms. R’s symptoms resolved within 40 minutes, and the brentuximab vedotin infusion was able to be continued over a prolonged period of more than 4 hours. Vital signs were checked every 15 minutes during the infusion reaction and remained stable throughout. The infusion was discontinued with 40 mg of drug remaining, due to the prolonged infusion time.

Given the clear benefits of brentuximab consolidation in improving progression-free survival post transplant (Moskowitz et al., 2015) in high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma, it was thought the benefit of brentuximab vedotin consolidation outweighed the possible risks of subsequent infusions.

Upon reviewing the available literature regarding brentuximab vedotin hypersensitivity reactions, which will be outlined in the discussion summary, we instituted the premedication strategy for subsequent infusions outlined in the Table on p 628.

Standard epinephrine and methylprednisolone were available at the bedside in the event of any anaphylactic reaction. This regimen was chosen based on the clinical rationale for H1 and H2 blockade, as well as corticosteroid and antipyretic coverage, in the prevention of hypersensitivity reactions, not classified as anaphylaxis. With the institution of the outlined premedications, Ms. R tolerated subsequent infusions well, at full dose and at standard infusion rates, with no documented infusion reactions, and was able to complete a total of 16 cycles of consolidation therapy.

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