Background: Cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) inhibitors have been established as a standard treatment for hormone receptor (HR)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative advanced breast cancer (ABC); however, predictive biomarkers with translational relevance have not yet been elucidated. Methods: Data from postmenopausal women who received the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib and letrozole for HR-positive, HER2-negative ABC from tertiary referral centers were analyzed (N = 221; exploratory cohort). Pre- and on-treatment neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) and derived NLR (dNLR; neutrophil/[leukocyte-neutrophil]) were correlated with survival outcomes. Data from the PALOMA-2 (NCT01740427) and PALOMA-3 studies (NCT01942135) involving patients treated with endocrine treatment with or without palbociclib were also analyzed (validation cohort). Prospectively enrolled patients (N = 20) were subjected to immunophenotyping with circulating immune cells to explore the biological implications of immune cell dynamics. Results: In the exploratory cohort, palbociclib administration significantly reduced leukocyte, neutrophil, and lymphocyte counts on day 1 of cycle 2. Although the baseline dNLR was not significantly associated with progression-free survival (PFS), higher on-treatment dNLRs were associated with worse PFS (hazard ratio = 3.337, P < 0.001). In the PALOMA-2 validation cohort, higher on-treatment dNLRs were associated with inferior PFS in patients treated with palbociclib and letrozole (hazard ratio = 1.498, P = 0.009), and reduction in the dNLR after treatment was predictive of a survival benefit (hazard ratio = 1.555, P = 0.026). On-treatment dNLRs were also predictive of PFS following palbociclib and fulvestrant treatment in the PALOMA-3 validation cohort. Using flow cytometry analysis, we found that the CDK4/6 inhibitor prevented T cell exhaustion and diminished myeloid-derived suppressor cell frequency. Conclusions: On-treatment dNLR significantly predicted PFS in patients with HR-positive, HER2-negative ABC receiving palbociclib and endocrine treatment. Additionally, we observed putative systemic immune responses elicited by palbociclib, suggesting immunologic changes upon CDK4/6 inhibitor treatment.
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© 2023, The Author(s).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research