Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio as a predictor of survival in patients with triple-negative breast cancer

Dilan A. Patel, Jing Xi, Jingqin Luo, Bilal Hassan, Shana Thomas, Cynthia X. Ma, Jian L. Campian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Purpose: Peripheral blood lymphopenia and elevated neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) have been associated with poor outcomes in various malignancies. However, existing literature has largely focused on baseline parameters. The aim of this study is to assess the impact of radiation therapy (RT) and chemotherapy on absolute lymphocyte counts (ALC) and NLR in relation to survival outcomes in patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed on 126 patients with TNBC treated at Washington University between 2005 and 2010. Cox proportional hazard model with time-varying covariates was applied to estimate the effect of time-varying ALC and NLR separately on overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS). Results: All patients received RT and 112 patients received either neoadjuvant chemotherapy or adjuvant chemotherapy, or both. Patients deceased had lower ALC and higher NLR compared to patients alive throughout the treatment course, even 1 year after treatment completion (ALC, 1 vs. 1.3, P = 0.03 and NLR, 3.9 vs. 2.6, P = 0.03). High ALC was associated with superior OS on both continuous and binary scales (cutoff of 1 K/ul) (HR 0.14; 95% CI 0.05–0.34; P < 0.001 and HR 0.28; 95% CI 0.13–0.61; P = 0.01, respectively). Additionally, high NLR was weakly associated with inferior OS on continuous scales (HR 1.1; 95% CI 1.06–1.15; P < 0.001). Conclusions: Post-treatment lymphopenia and NLR elevation can persist until 1 year after treatment completion. Both portend shorter survival for patients with TNBC. Our data support the use of ALC and NLR to identify high risk patients who may benefit from clinical trials rather than standard of care therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-452
Number of pages10
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


  • Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR)
  • Overall survival (OS)
  • Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)


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