, Volume 270, Issue 2, pp 711-718

Investigation of Th1/Th2 cytokine profiles in patients with laryngo-pharyngeal, HPV-positive cancers

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to reveal the relationships between the features of the primary tumour, the degree of tumour stage, the presence of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in blood and the severity of Th1/Th2 serum cytokine imbalance in patients with laryngo-pharyngeal cancer. The study was performed on 50 patients (47 men and 3 women), with age ranging from 40 to 83 years (the mean of the patients’ ages was 58.4 ± 9.43 years, with a median of 60 years). A control group was represented by age-matched healthy patients (with no clinical diseases). The viral DNA was detected by PCR; the cytokine levels were determined by ELISA. A clear switch from cytokine Th1 to cytokine Th2 in cancer patients, low levels of IL-2 and IFNγ in advanced stages, as well as a positive correlation of increased levels of both IL-2 and IL-12 with the early stages of laryngo-pharyngeal cancer was observed. Loco-regional metastases were correlated with increased levels of IL-8 and IL-10 and drastic decrease of IFNγ. In advanced cancer stages, we found that the most affected were IL-2 and IFNγ correlated with increased levels of Th2 cytokines. Patients with HPV present in both primary tumours and blood showed increased values of IL-4:IL-2 ratio as compared with patients with HPV-positive primary tumours only, demonstrating the aggravation of the immunosuppressive state. The most important finding of our study is that for a correct evaluation of the Th1 to Th2 switch in cancer patients, it is necessary to establish not only the negative/positive correlations between different Th1 and Th2 type cytokines, but also the ratio between them. These parameters allowed us to state that the presence of HPV DNA in blood was associated with the most severe immunological imbalance that could potentially lead to a poor prognosis of these patients. Our findings encourage us to consider that the ratio between different Th1 and Th2 cytokines could represent a useful marker for clinical and pathological evaluation of cancer patients.