Rationale: Bronchial epithelium exposed to cigarette smoke undergoes a series of histologic changes that may ultimately lead to invasive cancer. Inhaled corticosteroids reduce the number of lung tumors developing in rats exposed to cigarette smoke.
Objectives: We studied the effect of inhaled fluticasone on premalignant lesions in smokers and patients curatively treated for head and neck cancer or lung cancer.
Methods: Participants were screened for premalignant lesions by bronchoscopy. Biopsies were taken from three to five locations and classified using WHO criteria. In case of a metaplasia index of > 15%, participants were randomized to receive a powder inhalation device containing either fluticasone 500 microg or a placebo, to be used twice a day. After 6 months, biopsies were obtained from the same locations as previously sampled. Efficacy of treatment was assessed by reversal of metaplasia/dysplasia; secondary endpoints were reversal of increased p53 and KI-67 immunoreactivity and expression of human telomerase reverse transcriptase.
Measurements and main results: Of the 201 subjects that were screened, 108 were included. Mean age was 53 yr (35-71), mean number of pack-years 48 (18-99), mean metaplasia index 48%, and 32% had some degree of dysplasia at baseline. The two treatment arms did not differ with respect to response or change in either metaplasia index or the expression of the markers p53, KI-67, or human telomerase reverse transcriptase.
Conclusions: Inhaled fluticasone in a dose of 500 mug twice a day does not affect the natural course of premalignant lesions in the central airways.