Background: This study was designed to examine the serum levels of six cytokines (IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10) in treated and untreated breast cancer patients and assess their clinical significance. The correlation of the Th1/Th2 type cytokine levels and the clinicopathologic variables was further evaluated.
Methods: Cytometric Bead Array (CBA) was used to examine the levels of Th1 cytokines (TNF-α, IFN-γ, and IL2) and Th2 cytokines (IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10) in serum of 36 untreated and 73 treated breast cancer patients and 51 healthy females as control.
Results: In the untreated group, the levels of IFN-γ, IL-4 and IL-5 were significantly higher than in control group (p < 0.05). IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-5, and IL-10 levels were higher in treated group than in untreated group (p < 0.05); IFN-γ/IL-4 ratio of the treated group was higher than the untreated group (p < 0.05). Meanwhile, the cytokine levels were significantly different in different pTNM stages and lymph node involvement groups. Survival analysis revealed that the IFN-γ/IL-4 ratio, pTNM stage, and lymph node involvement affected the survival of breast cancer patients. The pTNM stage was an independent significant prognostic factor.
Conclusions: Breast cancer patients presented a Th1/Th2 imbalance and immune function disorder, which correlated with pTNM stage and lymph node involvement. Higher IFN-γ/IL-4 ratio predicted a favorable outcome in breast cancer patients.