Biomarker-based clustering of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

L.E.G.W. Vanfleteren*, J. Weidner, F.M.E. Franssen, S. Gaffron, N.L. Reynaert, E.F.M. Wouters, M.A. Spruit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Rationale COPD has been associated repeatedly with single biomarkers of systemic inflammation, ignoring the complexity of inflammatory pathways. This study aimed to cluster patients with COPD based on systemic markers of inflammatory processes and to evaluate differences in their clinical characterisation and examine how these differences may relate to altered biological pathways.Methods 213 patients with moderate-to-severe COPD in a clinically stable state were recruited and clinically characterised, which included a venous blood sample for analysis of serum biomarkers. Patients were clustered based on the overall similarity in systemic levels of 57 different biomarkers. To determine interactions among the regulated biomarkers, protein networks and biological pathways were examined for each patient cluster.Results Four clusters were identified: two clusters with lower biomarker levels (I and II) and two clusters with higher biomarker levels (III and IV), with only a small number of biomarkers with similar trends in expression. Pathway analysis indicated that three of the four clusters were enriched in Rage (receptor for advanced glycation end-products) and Oncostatin M pathway components. Although the degree of airflow limitation was similar, the clinical characterisation of clusters ranged from 1) better functional capacity and health status and fewer comorbidities; 2) more underweight, osteoporosis and static hyperinflation; 3) more metabolically deranged; and 4) older subjects with worse functional capacity and higher comorbidity load.Conclusions These new insights may help to understand the functionally relevant inflammatory interactions in the pathophysiology of COPD as a heterogeneous disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article number00301-2022
Number of pages13
JournalERJ Open Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • COPD

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