Diversity and heterogeneity of immune states in non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer

Shawn J. Rice, Chandra P. Belani

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9 Scopus citations


Blood-based biomarkers including systemic inflammation (SI) indicators or circulating factors (cytokines, chemokines, or growth factors) are associated with a poor prognosis for lung cancer patients. Collectively these biomarkers can predict the immune state of a patient. We wanted to define and compare the immune states of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer patients, in the hopes that the information gained could lead to overall improvements in patient care and outcomes. Specimens and data from 235 patients was utilized, 49 surgically resected non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with no evidence of disease (DF), 135 advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), 51 small cell lung cancer (SCLC). SI markers neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR), platelet-to-lymphocyte (PLR), systemic inflammation index (SII), and systemic inflammation response index (SIRI) were determined from blood counts. Forty-seven plasma cytokines were measured using a multiplex bead-based assay. Progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were assessed using Kaplan-Meier and Cox Proportional Hazards models. NSCLC patients had significantly high levels of SI markers than SCLC and DF patients, while NLR, PLR and SII were also higher in SCLC than DF patients. SI optimized marker values to differentiate SI value were; 6.04 (NLR), 320 (PLR), 1615 (SII), and 7.3 (SIRI). Elevated levels NLR (p<0.001), PLR (p<0.001), and SII (p = 0.018) were associated with a worse PFS and OS in NSCLC, while none of the markers were associated with PFS in SCLC patients. NSCLC patients with a poor outcome displayed heterogeneous immune states relative to systemic inflammation and circulating IL-6 markers. These groups could be distinguished based on the cytokines IL-8, TNFα, and IL-27. We identified heterogeneity of immune states in SCLC and NSCLC patients and in NSCLC patients with the poorest prognosis. This heterogeneity could be exploited to improve outcomes for these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0260988
JournalPloS one
Issue number12 December
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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