Background: Currently, there are no recognized or validated biomarkers to identify hepatocellular carcinoma patients (HCC) likely to benefit from anti–PD-1 therapy. We evaluated the relationship between neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) and platelet-lymphocyte ratio (PLR) and survival outcomes, pretreatment and after three doses (posttreatment) of nivolumab in HCC patients. Methods: Medical records of HCC patients treated with nivolumab between June 2016 and July 2018 were reviewed. Kaplan-Meier analysis and the log-rank test were used to calculate and compare overall survival between NLR < 5 Vs ≥ 5 and among PLR tertiles. Results: A total of 103 patients were identified. Median age was 66 (29-89) years. Median treatment duration was 26 (2-149) weeks. Sixty-four (62%) patients had Child-Pugh class A (CP-A) liver function. Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage was B in 20 (19%) and C in 83 (81%) patients. CP-A patients who achieved a partial or complete response had significantly lower posttreatment NLR and PLR (P <.001 for both) compared to patients who had stable disease or progression of disease. No relationship was observed between response and pretreatment NLR and PLR. NLR < 5 was associated with improved OS compared to NLR ≥ 5 both pretreatment (23 Vs10 months, P =.004) and posttreatment (35 Vs 9 months, P <.0001). Survival also differed significantly among PLR tertiles both pre- (P =.05) and posttreatment (P =.013). In a multivariable model, posttreatment NLR (HR = 1.10, P <.001) and PLR (HR = 1.002, P <.001) were strongly associated with survival. In a composite model of posttreatment NLR and PLR, a combination of high NLR and PLR was associated with an eightfold increased risk of death (HR = 8.3, P <.001). Conclusions: This study suggests a strong predictive role of these inflammatory cell ratios in the posttreatment setting in HCC patients treated with anti anti–PD-1 therapy and should be evaluated in a larger cohort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4962-4970
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • NLR
  • PLR
  • biomarkers
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • immunotherapy
  • neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio
  • platelet-lymphocyte ratio


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