This study aimed to evaluate the prognostic value of pre-treatment NLR in patients with oropharyngeal cancer.
Patients who completed definitive radiotherapy (RT) for oropharyngeal cancer and had blood counts taken pre-RT from 2002 to 2013 were included. NLR was calculated as total neutrophil/lymphocytes. Survival rates were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Univariable and multivariable analyses were conducted with linear and Cox regression methods. NLR was analysed posteriori and dichotomised on the discovered median.
Eight hundred and forty-eight patients were analysed. The median pre-RT NLR was 3. Patients with NLR of <3 had improved overall survival (OS) than those with NLR ≥ 3 (5-year OS 85 vs 74%, p < 0.0001). OS differences remained significant when stratified according to HPV status (HPV-positive p = 0.011; HPV-negative p = 0.003). Freedom from any recurrence (FFR), locoregional control (LRC) and freedom of distant recurrence (FDR) were better in those with NLR < 3. The negative impact of elevated pre-RT NLR on OS (HR = 1.64, p = 0.001), FFR (HR = 1.6, p = 0.006) and LRC (HR = 1.8, p = 0.005) remained significant on multivariable analysis.
Pre-RT NLR is an independent prognostic factor in patients with oropharyngeal cancer regardless of HPV status. Patients with lower NLR had more favourable OS and disease control.