Prognostic significance and predictors of the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio in ovarian cancer

Gynecol Oncol. 2014 Mar;132(3):542-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2014.01.026. Epub 2014 Jan 23.


Objective: To investigate the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) from peripheral blood, a general measure of inflammation, in ovarian cancer.

Methods: White cell counts and CA125 levels before treatment, tumor features, and questionnaire data on 519 women with ovarian cancer at two Boston hospitals were recorded. Counts were log-transformed and effects on these by tumor features and epidemiologic variables assessed by analysis of variance and generalized linear models. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess effects on overall survival.

Results: Greater NLR was associated with higher tumor stage and grade, presence of ascites, and bilateral disease and correlated with risk factors including Jewish ethnicity, taller height, more ovulatory cycles, and family history of cancer in premenopausal women and talc use in all women. CA125 was positively correlated with neutrophil count, monocyte count, and NLR and inversely correlated with lymphocyte count. In a multivariate adjusted analysis, high NLR predicted poorer survival and high lymphocyte count better survival.

Conclusion: An elevated NLR before treatment signals more aggressive disease and correlates with risk factors for ovarian cancer. CA125 directly correlates with neutrophils which may reflect secretion of both CA125 and neutrophilic growth factors by the tumor. CA125 inversely correlates with lymphocytes which may reflect the ability of some neutrophilic factors to induce lymphopenia and/or binding of CA125 to lymphocytes removing CA125 from the serum pool. Links between NLR, CA125, and epidemiologic factors may provide new clues about the pathogenesis and progression of ovarian cancer.

Keywords: CA125; Ovarian cancer; Risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Membrane Proteins / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood*


  • CA-125 Antigen
  • MUC16 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins