Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) play a central role in various cancers. ICIs can cause immune-related adverse events (irAEs). As severe irAEs can be life-threatening, biomarkers for estimating irAE onset are crucial. The neutrophils-to-lymphocytes ratio (NLR) reflects the systemic immune condition and known as a prognostic marker in ICI treatment. Our study evaluated if the NLR corresponded with irAEs, and its feasibility as a biomarker for irAE onset. We retrospectively analyzed 275 cancer patients treated with anti-PD-1 monotherapy. We observed 166 irAEs in 121 patients. The NLR was significantly elevated during irAEs. Patients experiencing interstitial pneumonitis showed NLR elevation 4 weeks before initial symptoms and diagnosis. Analyzing receiver operating characteristics curves revealed that elevated NLR distinguished subsequent pneumonitis severity with high accuracy (AUC 0.93, sensitivity 88.9%, specificity 88.2%, cut-off 2.37, p = 0.0004). After a severe irAE occurred, two NLR trends were observed. Patients who showed a prompt reduction in elevated NLRs had favorable progression-free survival (hazard ratio 0.32, 95% CI 0.10–1.01, p = 0.0140) and overall survival (hazard ratio 0.23, 95% CI 0.06–0.86, p = 0.0057) compared to the patients who maintained elevated NLRs. These findings suggest that continuous monitoring of NLR trends may predict irAE onset and severity and subsequent prognosis.
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