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Impact of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) therapy on interferon-γ release assay (IGRA) and diagnostic value in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.

BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB), a highly contagious respiratory disease, presents a significant global health threat, with a notable increase in incidence reported by the WHO in 2022. Particularly, the interplay between TB and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) gains attention, especially considering the rising use of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in cancer treatment. This interplay may influence TB diagnostics and reactivation, warranting a closer examination.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis was conducted on clinical data of NSCLC patients with positive T-SPOT results before undergoing anti-tumor treatment at Zhongshan Hospital (Xiamen), Fudan University, from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022. We assessed the incidence of tuberculosis reactivation and treatment outcomes among these patients. Moreover, we compared the differences in tuberculosis activity between the ICIs and non-ICIs treatment groups. Additionally, we observed the changes in T-SPOT spot count before and after immunotherapy, analyzing their association with tuberculosis activity and prognosis.

RESULTS: A total of 40 NSCLC patients with positive T-SPOT results before treatment were included in the study, with 26 patients in the ICIs treatment group and 14 patients in the non-ICIs treatment group. The study found no significant differences between the two groups in terms of gender, age, stage, histological type, performance status, driver gene expression, and distant metastasis. With a median follow-up time of 10.0 (6.0-14.5) months, three cases (11.5%) in the ICIs treatment group developed tuberculosis activity, diagnosed at 2, 3, and 12 months after ICIs treatment initiation. Conversely, no tuberculosis activity was observed in the non-ICIs treatment group, and the difference between the two groups was not significant (P = 0.186). Among the 32 patients who received ICIs treatment, spot count dynamics were diverse: four cases (12.5%) showed an increase, 12 cases (37.5%) had no change, and 16 cases (50.0%) had a decrease. During the follow-up, the progression rate (PD) was 50.0%, 75.0%, and 62.5% in the three groups, respectively (P = 0.527). Similarly, the mortality rate was 0%, 25.0%, and 25.0%, respectively (P = 0.106). Interestingly, among the patients with decreased spot counts, three cases (18.75%) were diagnosed with active pulmonary tuberculosis.

CONCLUSIONS: For NSCLC patients with a positive T-SPOT response undergoing ICIs treatment, our study observed indications of active tuberculosis. The varied T-SPOT spot count changes post-ICIs treatment suggest a complex interaction, potentially linking T-SPOT spot count reduction to tuberculosis reactivation risk. These preliminary findings underscore the importance of further research to more accurately assess T-SPOT's diagnostic utility in this context.

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