Diagnostic value of KL-6 in idiopathic interstitial pneumonia

Peiyan Zheng, Xiaoqing Liu, Huimin Huang, Zijun Guo, Ge Wu, Haisheng Hu, Chuanxu Cai, Wenting Luo, Nili Wei, Qian Han, Baoqing Sun


Background: Idiopathic interstitial pneumonia (IIP) can induce type II alveolar epithelial cell proliferation and pulmonary basement membrane damage and subsequent release of Krebs von den Lungen-6 antigen (KL-6) to the bloodstream. This study investigated the diagnostic and prognostic value of serum KL-6 levels for IIP.
Methods: One hundred five patients with lung disease were divided into IIP (n=75) and non-IIP groups (n=30) according to pathological and computed tomography findings. Serum KL-6 levels were evaluated in blood samples from all subjects. Nineteen IIP group patients were also subjected to a longitudinal study of disease progression and serum KL-6 levels over time.
Results: Serum KL-6 levels were significantly higher in the IIP group vs. the non-IIP group [1,096.0 (565.0–1,544.0) vs. 226.0 (173.5–346.5) U/mL; P<0.01]. Within the IIP group, serum KL-6 levels differed significantly between patients with and without concomitant disease or pulmonary infection (Z=−2.475, P=0.013). In a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, the area below the curve for serum KL-6 was 0.911 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.847–0.975, P<0.001], indicating a good diagnostic performance for IIP, with a cut-off level of 485 U/mL, sensitivity of 85.33%, specificity of 90.00%, positive predictive value (PPV) of 95.52%, negative predictive value (NPV) of 71.05%, and Kappa value of 0.70. Accordingly, the serum KL-6 and clinical diagnostic results were consistent. Moreover, in the longitudinal study, the serum KL-6 levels differed significantly from before to after treatment in patients with exacerbated or improved disease (P=0.004 and P=0.043, respectively), whereas no obvious changes were observed in patients with stable disease (P=0.692).
Conclusions: The serum KL-6 level is a valuable and significant diagnostic marker of IIP and a useful predictor of clinical prognosis.