Posttreatment Immune Parameters Predict Cancer Control and Pneumonitis in Stage I Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer Patients Treated With Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy

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Abstract

Stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy can increase the total number of cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes and regulatory T cells among peripheral lymphocytes. Increased cytotoxic CD8+ T-cell level was an independent prognostic factor for longer progression-free survival in stage I non–small-cell lung cancer. Proportion of lung receiving 20 Gy of radiotherapy and mean lung dose are independent predictors of symptomatic radiation pneumonitis (grade 2 or higher); neither pretreatment nor posttreatment T lymphocyte subset level was significantly related to symptomatic radiation pneumonitis (grade 2 or higher).

Purpose:

Stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) represents an exciting, tolerable, and highly effective form of radiotherapy. Ongoing investigations into the interactions between radiotherapy and the immune system have uncovered new mechanisms that can be exploited to improve efficacy. We determined whether baseline or posttreatment immune parameters could predict disease control and toxicity in stage I non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients treated with SABR.

Patients and Methods:

Peripheral blood samples were collected from 62 patients 24 hours before treatment and within 4 weeks after treatment for lymphocyte subset count analysis. All peripheral blood samples were analyzed by flow cytometry. Associated parameters were evaluated to determine their association with progression-free survival (PFS) and symptomatic radiation pneumonitis (grade 2 or higher). The survival rates were estimated with Kaplan-Meier and multivariable analyses using binary logistic regression analysis or a Cox proportional hazards model.

Results:

At a median follow-up time of 36.0 months, the PFS rates for years 1, 2, and 3 were 91.0%, 82.5%, and 48.9%, respectively. The multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that only proportion of lung receiving 20 Gy of radiotherapy (odds ratio = 1.41; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.87; P = .023) and mean lung dose (odds ratio = 2.02; 95% confidence interval, 1.16-3.53; P = .016) were associated with symptomatic radiation pneumonitis (grade 2 or higher). Moreover, the immune parameters had no predictive value. In the multivariable Cox regression analysis, an elevated posttreatment cytotoxic CD8+ T-cell level was an independent prognostic factor for longer PFS in stage I NSCLC (hazard ratio, 1.16; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.28; P = .01).

Conclusion:

A higher posttreatment cytotoxic CD8+ T-cell level was predictive of better PFS in stage I NSCLC patients receiving SABR. Thus, enhancing tumor antigen-specific cellular immunity by combining radiotherapy and immunotherapy might be a crucial strategy for improving survival in these patients.

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