A small study of cancer patients has found those immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab may be at some higher-than-normal risk of developing autoimmune joint and tissue diseases, including inflammatory arthritis, according to preliminary results from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The case report involved only 1.3% of patients treated with the drugs at Johns Hopkins Hospital over the past four years, but further research is expected to expand on the link. Many of the patients were referred from oncology to the rheumatology clinic and had severe, highly inflammatory arthritis. Eight of the 13 were taking a combination therapy of ipilimumab and nivolumab. Researchers said they hoped the case report would raise awareness among providers about the rheumatologic side effects from the medications.

Results were described online June 15 in Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.