The present study was designed to ascertain whether or not the pleural effusion and serum cytokine levels (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF], interleukin-10 [IL-10], and interferon-γ [IFNγ]) in lung cancer patients differ from tuberculous (TB) pleural effusion, in which a strong cellular immune reaction is found; and, whether cytokine levels are a prognostic factor in lung cancer patients with malignant effusion. A total of 202 lung cancer patients with malignant pleural effusion and 26 patients with TB pleural effusion were studied consecutively between 1995 and 1998. Serum and effusion cytokine levels were analyzed with ELISA assays. The results showed that pleural effusion GM-CSF and IL-10 levels were significantly higher than serum levels in both cancer and TB patients. Pleural effusion IFNγ levels were significantly higher than serum levels in TB patients. IFNγ levels in both pleural effusion and serum were significantly higher in TB patients than in those with cancer. No significant difference was found, between TB and cancer patients, in the serum or pleural effusion levels of either IL-10 or GM-CSF. The ratio of pleural effusion IFNγ to serum IFNγ, effusion IFNγ to effusion IL-10, and effusion IL-10 to serum IL-10, were all significantly higher in TB than in cancer patients, suggesting a higher cellular activity and T-helper 1 (Th1) reaction in TB pleural effusion than in malignant effusions, which were predominantly Th2 type. Survival analysis showed no significant difference in lung cancer patients with different levels of these cytokines. It was concluded that lung cancer patients with malignant pleural effusion had poorer immune profiles than those with TB pleurisy, both locally and systemically; and the cytokine profiles were not prognostic factors for lung cancer patients with malignant pleural effusion.
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