Background & aims: Although the Milan criteria (MC) have been used to select liver transplantation candidates among patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), many patients exceeding the MC have shown good prognosis. Preoperative neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) is a predictor of patient prognosis, but its mechanism has never been clarified.
Methods: We assessed outcomes in 158 patients who had undergone living-donor liver transplantation (LDLT) for HCC. Recurrence-free survival (RFS) was determined in patients with high (≥ 4) and low (<4) NLR. Levels of expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), interleukin (IL)-8, IL-17, CD68, and CD163 were measured.
Results: The 5-year RFS rate was significantly lower in patients with high (n=26) than with low (n=132) NLR (30.3% vs. 89.0%, p<0.0001), in patients with high (n=15) than with low (n=79) NLR who met the MC (73.6% vs. 100%, p=0.0008) and in patients with high (n=11) than with low (n=53) NLR who exceeded the MC (0% vs. 76.1%, p=0.0002). Tumor expression of VEGF, IL8, IL-17, CD68, and CD163 was similar in the high and low NLR groups, but serum and peritumoral IL-17 levels were significantly higher in the high-NLR group (p=0.01 each). The density of peritumoral CD163 correlated with the density of peritumoral IL-17-producing cells (p=0.04) and was significantly higher in the high-NLR group (p=0.005).
Conclusions: NLR predicts outcomes after LDLT for HCC via the inflammatory tumor microenvironment. Combined with the MC, NLR may be a new criterion for LDLT candidates with HCC.
Copyright © 2012 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.