Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 23;11(1):15057. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-94336-9.
The liver is an essential organ for regulating innate and acquired immunity. We hypothesized that the pre-treatment hepatic function affects the clinical outcome of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We analyzed 140 patients with NSCLC who received ICIs. We investigated the association between pre-treatment liver function, assessed using the albumin-bilirubin (ALBI) grade, and clinical outcomes in univariate, multivariate, and propensity score matching analyses. Patients were divided into four grades according to pre-treatment liver function. Eighty-eight patients had good hepatic reserve (ALBI grade 1 or 2a), whereas 52 patients had poor hepatic reserve (ALBI grade 2b or 3). In the univariate Kaplan-Meier analysis, the ALBI grade 1, 2a group had a significantly prolonged progression-free survival (PFS, 5.3 versus 2.5 months, p = 0.0019) and overall survival (OS, 19.6 vs. 6.2 months, p = 0.0002). These results were consistent, regardless of whether the analysis was performed in patients with a performance status of 0 or 1 at pre-treatment (N = 124) or in those selected using propensity score matching (N = 76). In the multivariate analysis, pre-treatment ALBI grade was an independent prognostic factor for both PFS (hazard ratio [HR] 0.57, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.38-0.86, p = 0.007) and OS (HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.29-0.72, p = 0.001). Our results suggest that pre-treatment hepatic function assessed by ALBI grade could be an essential biomarker for predicting the efficacy of treatment with ICIs in NSCLC.