OBJECTIVE:: To clarify the prognostic value of the preoperative blood neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) in patients undergoing hepatectomy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). BACKGROUND:: Although a high NLR has been reported to be a predictor of poor survival in patients with various cancers, it has not been extensively examined in patients with HCC. METHODS:: This retrospective study enrolled 958 patients who underwent hepatectomy without preoperative therapy for HCC from 1996 to 2009. Clinicopathological parameters, including NLR, were evaluated to identify predictors of overall and recurrence-free survival after hepatectomy. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed, using the Cox proportional hazards model. The best cutoff was determined with time-dependent receiver operating characteristic curve. To determine the mechanism of NLR elevation, immunohistological examination using CD163 staining was performed in 150 patients. RESULTS:: Univariate and multivariate analyses showed that NLR was an independent prognostic factor in overall and recurrence-free survival. The best cutoff of NLR was 2.81, and 238 of 958 patients (24.8%) had NLR of more than 2.81. The 5-year survival rate after hepatectomy was 72.9% in patients with NLR less than 2.81 and 51.5% in those with NLR 2.81 or more (P < 0.0001). CD163-positive cell counts were significantly higher in tumors in the group with NLR 2.81 or more than in the group with NLR less than 2.81 (P = 0.0004). CONCLUSIONS:: Our results show that NLR is an independent predictor of survival after hepatectomy in patients with HCC. Accumulation of tumor-associated macrophages in the tumor is associated with a high NLR.
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