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Hyperinflation and reduced diffusing capacity predict prognosis in SCLC: value of extended pre-therapeutic lung function testing.

BACKGROUND: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is characterized by aggressive growth and poor prognosis. Although SCLC affects nearly exclusively heavy smokers and leads to frequent respiratory symptoms, the impact of pre-therapeutic lung function testing in SCLC is sparely investigated until now. Therefore, we sought to examine whether we could find prognostic markers in pre-therapeutic lung function testing of SCLC patients.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We retrospectively analysed a cohort of 205 patients with the diagnosis of SCLC between 2010 and 2018. Pre-therapeutic values of spirometry, body plethysmography and measurement of diffusing capacity was extracted from patients' charts. Comparisons between groups were performed using the Mann-Whitney U- test or by chi-square tests as appropriate. Kaplan-Meier analyses and COX-regression models were performed to correlate lung function parameters with patients' outcome.

RESULTS: Airway obstruction itself, or the diagnosis chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) based on GOLD definitions did not correlate with survival in SCLC patients. Hyperinflation measured by increased residual volume and residual volume to total lung capacity ratio (log-rank p  < 0.001) and reduced diffusing capacity (log-rank p  = 0.007) were associated with reduced survival. Furthermore, patients with hyperinflation as well as impairments in gas exchange representing an emphysematic phenotype had the worst outcome (log-rank p  < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: We recommend including body plethysmography and measurement of diffusing capacity in the pre-therapeutic assessment of SCLC patients. Our findings suggest that reduction of hyperinflation may lead to better outcome in SCLC patients. Thus, in addition to effective tumour therapy, adequate therapy of the comorbidity of COPD should also be provided. In particular, measures to reduce hyperinflation by means of dual bronchodilation as well as respiratory physiotherapy should be further assessed in this setting.

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