Krebs von den Lungen 6 (KL-6) is a novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarker in pleural mesothelioma

Lung Cancer 2023 September 7 [Link]

Paul Stockhammer, Hannah Baumeister, Till Ploenes, Francesco Bonella, Dirk Theegarten, Balazs Dome, Christine Pirker, Walter Berger, Luca Hegedüs, Marcell Baranyi, Martin Schuler, Sophie Deshayes, Servet Bölükbas, Clemens Aigner, Christophe Blanquart, Balazs Hegedüs


Objectives: Pleural mesothelioma (PM) is a rare disease with dismal outcome. Systemic treatment options include chemotherapy and immunotherapy, but biomarkers for treatment personalization are missing. The only FDA-approved diagnostic biomarker is the soluble mesothelin-related protein (SMRP). Krebs von den Lungen-6 (KL-6) is a human mucin 1 (MUC1) glycoprotein, which has shown diagnostic and prognostic value as a biomarker in other malignancies. The present study investigated whether KL-6 can serve as a diagnostic and/or prognostic biomarker in PM.

Materials and methods: Using a fully-automated chemiluminescence enzyme immunoassay (CLEIA) for KL-6 and SMRP, pleural effusion samples from 87 consecutive patients with PM and 25 patients with non-malignant pleural disorders were studied. In addition, KL-6 and SMRP levels were determined in corresponding patient sera, and in an independent validation cohort (n = 122). MUC1 mRNA and protein expression, and KL-6 levels in cell line supernatants were investigated in PM primary cell lines in vitro.

Results: PM patients had significantly higher KL-6 levels in pleural effusion than non-malignant controls (AUC 0.78, p < 0.0001). Among PM patients, levels were highest in those with epithelioid or biphasic histologies. There was a strong positive correlation between pleural effusion levels of KL-6 and SMRP (p < 0.0001). KL-6 levels in sera similarly associated with diagnosis of PM, however, to a lesser extent (AUC 0.71, p = 0.008). PM patients with high pleural effusion KL-6 levels (≥303 IU/mL) had significantly better overall survival (OS) compared to those with low KL-6 levels (HR 0.51, p = 0.004). Congruently, high tumor cell MUC1 mRNA expression in primary cell lines associated with prolonged corresponding patient OS (HR 0.35, p = 0.004). These findings were confirmed in an independent validation cohort.

Conclusion: This is the first study demonstrating KL-6 as a potential novel liquid-based diagnostic and prognostic biomarker in PM.