For this study, NSCLC patients who underwent resection with curative intention between 1994 and 2011 at the Department of General, Visceral and Thoracic Surgery at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf were followed. Blood samples were taken in the setting of preoperative assessment and analysed retrospectively. The histopathological diagnosis was made by a pathological specialist at the Pathological Institute at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf. Histological classification of the tumor was done according to the sixth edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). Only patients with histologically confirmed NSCLC and tumor-free resection margins (R0) were finally included in the study. These criteria were applicable to a total of 59 NSCLC patients. The NSCLC group was comprised of 48 male and 11 female patients with a median age of 65 years ranging from 37 to 82 years. Squamous cell cancer (n = 30) and adenocarcinoma (n = 29) were equally distributed. All patients were treated according to the German national guidelines for NSCLC. Patients were followed up to five years. This included medical history, physical examination, and a CT-scan every three months for the first two years followed by every six months for another three years. All data including sex, age, tumor stage, metastasis, recurrence and overall survival were obtained prospectively.

75 blood bank donors served as healthy control for the study. The median age was 49 years. Patients did not exhibit any known relevant medical conditions, especially no malignant or chronic inflammatory disease.

Written informed consent was obtained from all patients for using serum samples and tissue samples. All aspects of the study were approved by the ethics committee of the University of Hamburg, Germany (PV3548) and were carried out in accordance with the approved guidelines.

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