Immunomodulatory effects of chemotherapy on blood lymphocytes and survival of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer
A better understanding of the immune profile of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and the immunomodulatory impact of chemotherapy is essential to develop current therapeutic approaches. Herein, we collected peripheral blood from 20 healthy donors and 50 patients with advanced NSCLC, before and after chemotherapy, followed by phenotypic analysis of lymphocyte subsets and assessment of the correlation between their post-chemotherapy levels and progression-free survival (PFS). Results showed that, before chemotherapy, the levels of CD8+ lymphocytes, PD-1+CD4+, Th2, and Th17 cells were elevated in patients’ peripheral blood, in contrast to natural killer (NK) cells and Th1 cells. Besides, there was no remarkable difference in the frequency of PD-1+CD8+ cells between patients and healthy controls. After chemotherapy, the levels of CD8+ lymphocytes, NK, Th2, Th17, and Treg were declined, in contrast to the level of Th1 cells which was markedly increased. Importantly, chemotherapy had no impact on the frequencies of PD-1+CD8+ and PD-1+CD4+ cells. PFS was significantly better in patients with low percentage of PD-1+CD4+ T cells than those with high percentage. Patients with high content of Th1 cells showed longer PFS than those with low content. The low percentages of Th17 and Treg cells were correlated with longer PFS, even though the difference did not reach statistical significance. In conclusion, the imbalance of lymphocyte subsets is a hallmark of NSCLC. Furthermore, the high level of PD-1+CD4+ cells plays a crucial role in the progression of NSCLC and could be used as a prognostic marker; and the high level of Th1 could predict better clinical outcomes of chemotherapy.