Previous studies that were based primarily on small numbers of patients suggested that certain circulating proinflammatory cytokines may be associated with lung cancer; however, large independent studies are lacking.
Associations between serum interleukin 6 (IL-6) and interleukin 8 (IL-8) levels and lung cancer were analyzed among 270 case patients and 296 control subjects participating in the National Cancer Institute-Maryland (NCI-MD) case-control study. Results were validated in 532 case patients and 595 control subjects in a nested case-control study within the prospective Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. Association with C-reactive protein (CRP), a systemic inflammation biomarker, was also analyzed. Associations between biomarkers and lung cancer were estimated using logistic regression models adjusted for smoking, stage, histology, age, and sex. The 10-year standardized absolute risks of lung cancer were estimated using a weighted Cox regression model.
Serum IL-6 and IL-8 levels in the highest quartile were associated with lung cancer in the NCI-MD study (IL-6, odds ratio [OR] = 3.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.88 to 5.77; IL-8, OR = 2.06, 95% CI = 1.19 to 3.57) and with lung cancer risk in the PLCO study (IL-6, OR = 1.48, 95% CI = 1.04 to 2.10; IL-8, OR = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.10 to 2.24), compared with the lowest quartile. In the PLCO study, increased IL-6 levels were only associated with lung cancer diagnosed within 2 years of blood collection, whereas increased IL-8 levels were associated with lung cancer diagnosed more than 2 years after blood collection (OR = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.15 to 2.13). The 10-year standardized absolute risks of lung cancer in the PLCO study were highest among current smokers with high IL-8 and CRP levels (absolute risk = 8.01%, 95% CI = 5.77% to 11.05%).
Although increased levels of both serum IL-6 and IL-8 are associated with lung cancer, only IL-8 levels are associated with lung cancer risk several years before diagnosis. Combination of IL-8 and CRP are more robust biomarkers than either marker alone in predicting subsequent lung cancer.