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Chronobiol Int. 2012 Oct;29(8):1109-20. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2012.706767. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Association of worse prognosis with an aberrant diurnal cortisol rhythm in patients with advanced lung cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Lung and Esophageal Cancer Clinic, Chonnam National University Hwasun Hospital, Gwangju, Republic of Korea.


A flatter diurnal rhythm of cortisol has been reported to be associated with early mortality in patients with metastatic breast cancer. The clinical stage of disease at the time of diagnosis and the patient's performance status (PS) are known to be important prognostic factors for lung cancer (LC) survival. The authors examined the relationship between diurnal cortisol rhythms and these prognostic factors in patients with advanced LC. Cortisol concentrations were measured in saliva samples collected from 52 patients (37 males/15 females) with advanced LC and from 56 healthy subjects (32 males/24 females) to characterize the diurnal cortisol rhythm, specifically the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and diurnal cortisol decline (DCD). Variations of CAR and DCD in the patients were analyzed according to their clinical disease stage and PS score, and the differences in CAR and DCD between patients and healthy controls were compared. The patient group showed significantly reduced diurnal cortisol secretory activity and rhythmicity, compared with healthy controls. When the patients were subgrouped according to their clinical disease stage, patients with stage 4 disease showed significantly reduced CAR and flatter DCD compared with the healthy controls. However, the CAR and DCD in patients with stage 3a and 3b disease were comparable to those of healthy controls. Neither the CAR nor the DCD showed stepwise changes as the disease stage worsened. When patients were subgrouped according to their Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) PS score, there was stepwise reduction in the CAR and flattening of the DCD as the PS score increased. Both an abolished CAR and a flattened DCD were common in patients with ECOG PS scores of 3 and 4. These results indicate that alteration of the diurnal cortisol rhythm in patients with advanced LC is more closely associated with their PS score than with their clinical disease stage. Gradual alteration of the CAR and DCD, indicative of loss of 24-h cortisol rhythm, in concert with increase in PS score implies that endogenous circadian rhythms may also be disintegrating as the PS score worsens in these patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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