OBJECTIVES--Concentrations of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) were assayed by radioimmunoassay in serum samples collected between 1981 and 1987 from 111 patients with asbestosis who were at a high risk of cancer. Follow up of these patients until 1993 showed that 38 had developed cancer (27 lung, three mesotheliomas, and eight diverse malignancies). RESULTS--The mean serum concentrations of TNF-alpha given in fmol/100 microliters serum in all the cases with cancer (14.1) and the cases with lung cancer (13.6) were significantly higher (P < 0.05) than the mean concentrations in the exposed controls (10.5). A positive increase was considered to be any value that was > 2 SDs above the mean of the exposed controls. 22% (six of 27) of the cases with lung cancer were positive compared with 4% (three of 73) of the exposed controls, a significant difference (P < 0.001). The serum concentrations of TNF-alpha correlated moderately with cancer (r = 0.3), lung cancer (r = 0.3), and Neu oncoproteins and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) (r = 0.3, 0.5 respectively). Also, there was a significant correlation between development of cancer and severity or progression of asbestosis. There was no correlation between the concentrations of TNF-alpha and severity or progression of asbestosis. CONCLUSIONS--These results showed high concentrations of TNF-alpha in the patients who had cancer. TNF-alpha may offer an auxiliary method in early diagnosis of cancers related to asbestosis.
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