The present study was performed to elucidate the differences in immune status between patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and those with non-small cell lung cancer. The study group consisted of 18 patients with SCLC and 15 with non-SCLC. Two healthy volunteers and 13 patients with benign disease were also included in the present study as the non-cancer control. In the non-SCLC group, although not statistically significant, the percentages of both OKT3+ and OKT4+ T-lymphocytes in the peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) were slightly decreased, associated with a slight increase in the percentage of OKT8+ T-cells, and a slight decrease in the OKT4+ to OKT8+ T-cell ratio. In contrast, the PBL of the SCLC patients showed significantly lower proliferative responses to phytohemagglutinin and human recombinant interleukin 2 than did the PBL of both the SCLC patients and the noncancer control group. The ability of PBL to produce lymphokines (interleukin 2 and macrophage activating factor) was significantly impaired in the SCLC group but not in the non-SCLC group. These results suggest that suppression of helper T-cell functions and/or potentiation of suppressor T-cell functions should occur in patients with SCLC.
This work was supported in part by a Grant-in-aid for Cancer Research from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Welfare.