Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Alters Immune Cell Composition and Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Efficacy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Abstract

Rationale:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are interrelated diseases with substantial mortality, and the pathogenesis of both involves aberrant immune functioning.

Objectives:

To profile immune cell composition and function in patients with NSCLC and describe the effects of COPD on lung and tumor microenvironments.

Methods:

We profiled resected lung and tumor tissue using flow cytometry and T-cell receptor sequencing in patients with and without COPD from a prospective cohort of patients undergoing resection of NSCLC. A murine cigarette smoke exposure model was used to evaluate the effect on pulmonary immune populations. A separate retrospective cohort of patients who received immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) was analyzed, and their survival was quantified.

Measurements and Main Results:

We observed an increased number of IFN-γ-producing CD8+ and CD4+ (T-helper cell type 1 [Th1]) lymphocytes in the lungs of patients with COPD. In both humans and mice, increased Th17 content was seen with smoke exposure, but was not associated with the development or severity of COPD. COPD-affected lung tissue displayed increased Th1 differentiation that was recapitulated in the matching tumor sample. PD-1 (programmed cell death protein 1) expression was increased in tumors of patients with COPD, and the presence of COPD was associated with progression-free survival in patients treated with ICIs.

Conclusions:

In patients with COPD, Th1 cell populations were expanded in both lung and tumor microenvironments, and the presence of COPD was associated with longer progression-free intervals in patients treated with ICIs. This has implications for understanding the immune mediators of COPD and developing novel therapies for NSCLC.

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