Change in Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) in response to immune checkpoint blockade for metastatic renal cell carcinoma

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Background: An elevated Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) is associated with worse outcomes in several malignancies. However, its role with contemporary immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) is unknown. We investigated the utility of NLR in metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) patients treated with PD-1/PD-L1 ICB. Methods: We examined NLR at baseline and 6 (±2) weeks later in 142 patients treated between 2009 and 2017 at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, USA). Landmark analysis at 6 weeks was conducted to explore the prognostic value of relative NLR change on overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), and objective response rate (ORR). Cox and logistic regression models allowed for adjustment of line of therapy, number of IMDC risk factors, histology and baseline NLR. Results: Median follow up was 16.6 months (range: 0.7-67.8). Median duration on therapy was 5.1 months (<1-61.4). IMDC risk groups were: 18% favorable, 60% intermediate, 23% poor-risk. Forty-four percent were on first-line ICB and 56% on 2nd line or more. Median NLR was 3.9 (1.3-42.4) at baseline and 4.1 (1.1-96.4) at week 6. Patients with a higher baseline NLR showed a trend toward lower ORR, shorter PFS, and shorter OS. Higher NLR at 6 weeks was a significantly stronger predictor of all three outcomes than baseline NLR. Relative NLR change by ≥25% from baseline to 6 weeks after ICB therapy was associated with reduced ORR and an independent prognostic factor for PFS (p < 0.001) and OS (p = 0.004), whereas a decrease in NLR by ≥25% was associated with improved outcomes. Conclusions: Early decline and NLR at 6 weeks are associated with significantly improved outcomes in mRCC patients treated with ICB. The prognostic value of the readily-available NLR warrants larger, prospective validation.




Lalani, A. K. A., Xie, W., Martini, D. J., Steinharter, J. A., Norton, C. K., Krajewski, K. M., … Choueiri, T. K. (2018). Change in Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) in response to immune checkpoint blockade for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 6(1).

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