The lymph node ratio (LNR) is defined as the ratio of the number of positive lymph nodes to the total number of nodes retrieved. LNR has recently emerged as a prognostic factor in rectal cancer. The objective of our study was to pool eligible studies to elucidate the prognostic role of LNR on overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) in rectal cancer patients using a meta-analysis.
A systematic database search was performed in MEDLINE and Embase for relevant studies that reported LNR in rectal cancer. Two authors independently screened the relevant articles for selection and data extraction. As a result, a list of such studies and references, published in English up to December 2019, was obtained, and a total of 4,486 node-positive patients in 18 studies were included in this meta-analysis. RevMan software 5.3 (Cochrane Collaboration, the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen) was used for conducting all statistical analyses.
A higher LNR was significantly correlated with worse OS [hazard ratio (HR): 2.60; 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.21-3.06; p≤.00001] and DFS (HR: 2.43; 95% CI: 2.11-2.80; p≤.00001) in node-positive rectal cancer patients. Besides, LNR is an independent predictive and prognostic marker of OS and DFS (HR: 2.52; 95% CI: 2.17-2.94; p≤.00001 with I2=0%; p=.32 and HR: 2.63; 95% CI: 2.17-3.18; p≤.00001 with I2=0%; p=.63 respectively, irrespective of lymph nodal harvest).
Our present study demonstrates that LNR is an independent predictor of survival in rectal cancer. LNR should be considered as a parameter in future oncological staging systems. Further well-designed randomized control trials to prospectively assess LNR as an independent predictor of rectal cancer survival are necessary before its application in daily practice.