Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) have improved survival in numerous types of cancer. However, a great number of unselected patients still do not respond to ICI. Moreover, there is a need to identify biomarkers that could predict the prognosis of immunotherapy-treated patients. The aim of our study is to evaluate the prognostic value of baseline plasmatic cholesterol levels in metastatic cancer patients treated with immunotherapy. We retrospectively enrolled advanced cancer patients consecutively treated with ICI at our center between October 2013 and October 2018 to correlate the blood cholesterol level before treatment with overall survival (OS, primary endpoint). The secondary endpoints were the correlation between baseline cholesterol and progression-free survival (PFS), objective response rate, and toxicity (immune-related adverse events). Among 187 patients with availability of baseline plasmatic cholesterol, 58 had cholesterol levels >200 mg/dL. The median age was 70 years. Primary tumors were as follows: non-small cell lung cancer (70.0%), melanoma (15.0%), renal cell carcinoma (9.1%), urothelial cancer (4.6%), head-neck carcinoma (0.9%), and others (0.4%). The median follow-up was 21.3 months. Both OS and PFS were better in patients with high plasmatic cholesterol levels: the median OS was 19.4 versus 5.5 months (P=0.001) and the median PFS was 6.1 versus 2.4 months (P=0.002). The multivariate analysis confirmed the prognostic role of hypercholesterolemia in terms of OS, but not PFS. Hypercholesterolemia was associated with better outcomes in ICI-treated cancer patients and, as an expression of low-grade inflammation state, it could identify tumors more likely to be responsive to immunotherapy.
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