Rationale: Chronic inflammation has been implicated in the development of airway dysplasia and lung cancer. It is unclear whether circulating biomarkers of inflammation could be used to predict progression of airway dysplasia.
Objective: We determined whether circulating levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) or other inflammatory biomarkers could predict progression of bronchial dysplasia in smokers over 6 mo.
Methods: The plasma levels of CRP, interleukins 6 and 8, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 were measured at baseline in 65 ex- and current smokers who had at least one site of bronchial dysplasia > 1.2 mm in size. Additional bronchial biopsies were taken after 6 mo from the same sites where dysplastic lesions were discovered at baseline. Progressive dysplastic lesions were defined as worsening of the dysplastic lesion by at least two grades or development of new dysplastic lesions.
Results: Half of the participants developed progressive dysplastic lesions after 6 mo. The baseline CRP levels in these participants were 64% higher than those without progressive disease (p = 0.027). Only one of eight (13%) participants with CRP < or = 0.5 mg/L developed progressive disease, whereas 31 of 57 (54%) participants with CRP > 0.5 mg/L developed progressive disease (p = 0.011). The odds of developing progressive disease were 9.6-fold higher in the latter than in the former group.
Conclusion: Plasma CRP, in concert with lung function and pack-years of smoking, appears to have excellent predictive powers in identifying participants with bronchial dyplastic lesions whose lesions progress to more advanced stages of dysplasia.