The lung microbiome, peripheral gene expression, and recurrence-free survival after resection of stage II non-small cell lung cancer

Brandilyn A. Peters, Harvey I. Pass, Robert D. Burk, Xiaonan Xue, Chandra Goparaju, Christopher C. Sollecito, Evan Grassi, Leopoldo N. Segal, Jun Chieh J. Tsay, Richard B. Hayes, Jiyoung Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Cancer recurrence after tumor resection in early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is common, yet difficult to predict. The lung microbiota and systemic immunity may be important modulators of risk for lung cancer recurrence, yet biomarkers from the lung microbiome and peripheral immune environment are understudied. Such markers may hold promise for prediction as well as improved etiologic understanding of lung cancer recurrence. Methods: In tumor and distant normal lung samples from 46 stage II NSCLC patients with curative resection (39 tumor samples, 41 normal lung samples), we conducted 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We also measured peripheral blood immune gene expression with nanoString®. We examined associations of lung microbiota and peripheral gene expression with recurrence-free survival (RFS) and disease-free survival (DFS) using 500 × 10-fold cross-validated elastic-net penalized Cox regression, and examined predictive accuracy using time-dependent receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. Results: Over a median of 4.8 years of follow-up (range 0.2–12.2 years), 43% of patients experienced a recurrence, and 50% died. In normal lung tissue, a higher abundance of classes Bacteroidia and Clostridia, and orders Bacteroidales and Clostridiales, were associated with worse RFS, while a higher abundance of classes Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria, and orders Burkholderiales and Neisseriales, were associated with better RFS. In tumor tissue, a higher abundance of orders Actinomycetales and Pseudomonadales were associated with worse DFS. Among these taxa, normal lung Clostridiales and Bacteroidales were also related to worse survival in a previous small pilot study and an additional independent validation cohort. In peripheral blood, higher expression of genes TAP1, TAPBP, CSF2RB, and IFITM2 were associated with better DFS. Analysis of ROC curves revealed that lung microbiome and peripheral gene expression biomarkers provided significant additional recurrence risk discrimination over standard demographic and clinical covariates, with microbiome biomarkers contributing more to short-term (1-year) prediction and gene biomarkers contributing to longer-term (2–5-year) prediction. Conclusions: We identified compelling biomarkers in under-explored data types, the lung microbiome, and peripheral blood gene expression, which may improve risk prediction of recurrence in early-stage NSCLC patients. These findings will require validation in a larger cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Gene expression
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung microbiome
  • Peripheral blood
  • Recurrence
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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