BACKGROUND - There is a medical need for diagnostic biomarkers in lung cancer. We evaluated the diagnostic performance of complement activation fragments.
METHODS - We assessed complement activation in four bronchial epithelial and seven lung cancer cell lines. C4d, a degradation product of complement activation, was determined in 90 primary lung tumors; bronchoalveolar lavage supernatants from patients with lung cancer (n = 50) and nonmalignant respiratory diseases (n = 22); and plasma samples from advanced (n = 50) and early lung cancer patients (n = 84) subjects with inflammatory lung diseases (n = 133), and asymptomatic individuals enrolled in a lung cancer computed tomography screening program (n = 190). Two-sided P values were calculated by Mann-Whitney U test.
RESULTS - Lung cancer cells activated the classical complement pathway mediated by C1q binding that was inhibited by phosphomonoesters. Survival was decreased in patients with high C4d deposition in tumors (hazard ratio [HR] = 3.06; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.18 to 7.91). C4d levels were increased in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from lung cancer patients compared with patients with nonmalignant respiratory diseases (0.61 ± 0.87 vs 0.16 ± 0.11 µg/mL; P < .001). C4d levels in plasma samples from lung cancer patients at both advanced and early stages were also increased compared with control subjects (4.13 ± 2.02 vs 1.86 ± 0.95 µg/mL, P < 0.001; 3.18 ± 3.20 vs 1.13 ± 0.69 µg/mL, P < .001, respectively). C4d plasma levels were associated with shorter survival in patients at advanced (HR = 1.59; 95% CI = 0.97 to 2.60) and early stages (HR = 5.57; 95% CI = 1.60 to 19.39). Plasma C4d levels were reduced after surgical removal of lung tumors (P < .001) and were associated with increased lung cancer risk in asymptomatic individuals with (n = 32) or without lung cancer (n = 158) (odds ratio = 4.38; 95% CI = 1.61 to 11.93).
CONCLUSIONS - Complement fragment C4d may serve as a biomarker for early diagnosis and prognosis of lung cancer.