Background: There is increasing evidence that the presence of an ongoing systemic inflammatory response is a stage-independent predictor of poor outcome in patients with cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate whether an inflammation-based prognostic score, the prognostic nutritional index (PNI), is associated with overall survival (OS) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methods: All patients with a new diagnosis of HCC presenting to the Medical Oncology Department, Hammersmith Hospital between 1993 and 2011 (n=112) were included. Demographic and clinical data were collected. Patients in whom the combined albumin (g l(-1)) × total lymphocyte count × 10(9) l(-1) was ≥45, at presentation, were allocated a PNI score of 0. Patients in whom this total score was <45 were allocated a score of 1. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify clinicopathological variables associated with OS. Independent predictors of survival identified on multivariate analysis were validated in an independent, stage-matched cohort of 68 patients.
Results: Univariate analyses showed that PNI (P=0.003), intrahepatic spread (P<0.001), the presence of extrahepatic disease (P=0.006), portal vein thrombosis (P=0.02), tumour multifocality (P=0.003), alfa-fetoprotein >400 ng ml(-1) (P<0.001) and Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer score (P<0.01) were all predictors of OS in the training set. Multivariate analysis revealed the PNI (P=0.05), presence of extrahepatic disease (P<0.001) and degree of intrahepatic spread (P<0.001) as independent predictors of worse OS in this population. The PNI retained independent prognostic value in the validation set (P<0.001).
Conclusion: The presence of a systemic inflammatory response, as measured by the PNI, is an independent and externally validated predictor of poor OS in patients with HCC.