Expression of tryptophan-degrading enzyme indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase in tumour tissue is proposed to represent an important tumour immunoescape mechanism. To further investigate the potential role of activated indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase in bronchus carcinoma, we examined serum tryptophan and kynurenine concentrations in nine patients with small cell lung cancer and in 27 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Tryptophan metabolic changes were compared with markers of inflammation and immune activation namely C-reactive protein (CRP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and neopterin. Compared with controls, patients presented with lower tryptophan concentrations (P < 0.01) and with higher serum kynurenine to tryptophan ratios (P < 0.01), an index of tryptophan degradation. Also ESR and CRP and neopterin concentrations were increased in the patients (all P < 0.001), and there was a weak correlation between kynurenine to tryptophan ratio and ESR, CRP and neopterin concentrations. We conclude that in the majority of patients with non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer, enhanced tryptophan degradation can be observed. It seems to relate to an inflammatory response and may reflect activation of indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase at the tumour site. The capacity of the tumour to escape normal host immune defence may be influenced by tryptophan degradation. Results of this pilot study deserve further confirmation.
© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.