Purpose: Lung inflammation leading to pulmonary toxicity after radiotherapy (RT) can occur in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We investigated the kinetics of RT induced plasma inflammatory cytokines in these patients in order to identify clinical predictors of toxicity.
Experimental design: In 12 NSCLC patients, RT to 60 Gy (30 fractions over 6 weeks) was delivered; 6 received concurrent chemoradiation (chemoRT) and 6 received RT alone. Blood samples were taken before therapy, at 1 and 24 hours after delivery of the 1st fraction, 4 weeks into RT, and 12 weeks after completion of treatment, for analysis of a panel of 22 plasma cytokines. The severity of respiratory toxicities were recorded using common terminology criteria for adverse events (CTCAE) v4.0.
Results: Twelve cytokines were detected in response to RT, of which ten demonstrated significant temporal changes in plasma concentration. For Eotaxin, IL-33, IL-6, MDC, MIP-1α and VEGF, plasma concentrations were dependent upon treatment group (chemoRT vs RT alone, all p-values <0.05), whilst concentrations of MCP-1, IP-10, MCP-3, MIP-1β, TIMP-1 and TNF-α were not. Mean lung radiation dose correlated with a reduction at 1 hour in plasma levels of IP-10 (r2 = 0.858, p<0.01), MCP-1 (r2 = 0.653, p<0.01), MCP-3 (r2 = 0.721, p<0.01), and IL-6 (r2 = 0.531, p = 0.02). Patients who sustained pulmonary toxicity demonstrated significantly different levels of IP-10 and MCP-1 at 1 hour, and Eotaxin, IL-6 and TIMP-1 concentration at 24 hours (all p-values <0.05) when compared to patients without respiratory toxicity.
Conclusions: Inflammatory cytokines were induced in NSCLC patients during and after RT. Early changes in levels of IP-10, MCP-1, Eotaxin, IL-6 and TIMP-1 were associated with higher grade toxicity. Measurement of cytokine concentrations during RT could help predict lung toxicity and lead to new therapeutic strategies.