How lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

News 41-2017 EN

Nearly half of all advanced-stage lung cancer patients develop arterial pulmonary hypertension – DZL scientists of…

Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as DZL scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim and the Justus Liebig University Giessen found after examining more than 500 patients. The pulmonary hypertension observed is possibly due to immune and inflammatory processes triggered by cancer cells. Treatment could focus on this mechanism.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. This is partly due to the fact that lung cancer is often not recognized until it is in an advanced stage. Another problem is that a variety of different lung cancers exist, each of which requires its own therapeutic concept. This, in turn, requires a better understanding of the disease.

Many patients with progressive lung cancer develop shortness of breath and respiratory distress. The same symptoms also occur in diseases such as pulmonary arterial hypertension. The Scientists therefore measured the diameter of the pulmonary artery of about 500 lung cancer patients using computer tomography. “We found thickening of the walls of the pulmonary artery in more than half the patients. This is a clear indication that these patients also suffer from pulmonary hypertension,” says DZL Scientist Rajkumar Savai (Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim) who headed the study.

Further experiments showed that the immune cells release various chemical messengers, as is generally observed in inflammatory reactions. For the scientists, this is an indication that inflammatory processes triggered by lung cancer may be responsible for pulmonary hypertension.

Chairman and speaker of the DZL Prof. Werner Seeger, Director at the Max Planck Institute and Director of the Medical Unit at Giessen-Marburg University Hospital, hopes the team’s findings will lead to approaches for developing a treatment. “Previously unknown abnormalities in blood vessels, triggered by inflammatory processes in lung tumours, could be the underlying cause of the symptoms observed in patients.” New therapeutic approaches could start here.

Scientific Contact (DZL Site UGMLC):

Dr. Rajkumar Savai
Max-Planck-Institut für Herz- und Lungenforschung, Parkstraße 1, D-61231 Bad Nauheim
(Member of the German Center for Lung Research (Deutsches Zentrums für Lungenforschung, DZL)
Tel.: +49 (0)6032 705-420

Further Information


Pullamsetti SS, Kojonazarov B, Storn S, Gall H, Salazar Y, Wolf J, Weigert A, El-Nikhely N, Ghofrani HA, Krombach GA, Fink L, Gattenlöhner S, Rapp UR, Schermuly RT, Grimminger F, Seeger W, Savai R. Lung cancer-associated pulmonary hypertension: role of microenvironmental inflammation based on tumor cell-immune cell crosstalk. Sci. Transl. Med. 9, eaai9048 (2017) 15 November 2017.
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai9048

Press release from the Max Planck Institute for for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim (in English)

Press release from the Justus Liebig University Giessen (in German)