Understanding the Risk Factors and Long-Term Consequences of Cisplatin-Associated Acute Kidney Injury: An Observational Cohort Study
Understanding the Risk Factors and Long- Term Consequences of Cisplatin-Associated Acute Kidney Injury: An Observational Cohort Study
Zeenat Yousuf Bhat 0 1
Pravit Cadnapaphornchai 0 1
Kevin Ginsburg 0 1
Milani Sivagnanam 0 1
Shamit Chopra 0 1
Corey K. Treadway 0 1
Ho-Sheng Lin 0 1
George Yoo 0 1
Ammar Sukari 0 1
Mona D. Doshi 0 1
0 1 Wayne State University, School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America, 2 Patel Hospital , Civil Lines, Jalandhar City, Punjab , India , 3 Cass Street, Ear , Nose & Throat Associates , Traverse City, Michigan , United States of America, 4 Karmanos Cancer Institute , Detroit, Michigan , United States of America
1 Editor: Partha Mukhopadhyay, National Institutes of Health , UNITED STATES
Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a well-known complication of cisplatin-based chemotherapy; however, its impact on long-term patient survival is unclear. We sought to determine the incidence and risk factors for development of cisplatin-associated AKI and its impact on long-term renal function and patient survival. We identified 233 patients who received 629 cycles of high-dose cisplatin (99±9mg/m2) for treatment of head and neck cancer between 2005 and 2011. These subjects were reviewed for development of AKI. Cisplatin nephrotoxicity (CN) was defined as persistent rise in serum creatinine, with a concomitant decline in serum magnesium and potassium, in absence of use of nephrotoxic agents and not reversed with hydration. All patients were hydrated per protocol and none had baseline glomerular filtration rate (GFR) via CKD-EPI<60mL/min/1.73m2. The patients were grouped based on development of AKI and were staged for levels of injury, per KDIGO-AKI definition. Renal function was assessed via serum creatinine and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) via CKD-EPI at baseline, 6- and 12-months. Patients with AKI were screened for the absence of nephrotoxic medication use and a temporal decline in serum potassium and magnesium levels. Logistic regression models were constructed to determine risk factors for cisplatin-associated AKI. Twelve-month renal function was compared among groups using ANOVA. Kaplan-Maier curves and Cox proportional hazard models were constructed to study its impact on patient survival. Of 233 patients, 158(68%) developed AKI; 77 (49%) developed stage I, 55 (35%) developed stage II, and 26 (16%) developed stage III AKI. Their serum potassium and magnesium levels correlated negatively with level of injury (p<0.05). African American race was a significant risk factor for cisplatin-associated AKI, OR 2.8 (95% CI 1.3 to 6.3) and 2.8 (95% CI 1.2 to 6.7) patients with stage III AKI had the lowest eGFR value at 12 months (p = 0.05) and long-term patient survival (HR 2.1; p<0.01) than patients with no or lower grades of AKI. Most common causes of death were recurrent
Competing Interests: The authors have declared
that no competing interests exist.
cancer (44%) or secondary malignancy elsewhere (40%). Cisplatin-associated severe AKI
occurs in 20% of the patients and has a negative impact on long-term renal function and
patient survival. PEG tube placement may be protective and should be considered in high
Cisplatin is an alkylating chemotherapeutic agent widely used in treatment of a variety of
cancers. However, its efficacy is limited by significant side effects such as nephrotoxicity,
neurotoxicity, and ototoxicity . Renal toxicity occurs in a third of patients and is dose dependent .
Prior literature suggests that aggressive hydration during cisplatin infusion along with
mannitol may reduce nephrotoxicity by increasing urinary flow rate and decreasing the contact time
between the drug and renal tubules . Thus, fluids and mannitol have become standard of
care, especially with high dose cisplatin infusion . Cisplatin-associated AKI results in
irreversible renal injury . In general population, reduced renal function is associated with
inferior patient survival; partially explained by the presence of common risk factors such as
diabetes and hypertension which are linked to both kidney and heart disease. Currently, there
is only one study from Japan  showing inferior patient survival in patients with
cisplatinassociated severe AKI. The authors reported that history of diabetes, cardiac disease, and stage
IV cancers were significant risk factors for development of severe AKI. It is unclear if the
increased mortality is due to cardiac disease versus progression of cancer due to cessation of
The aims of the present study are to determine the incidence and risk factors for
development of AKI with use of high dose cisplatin in the current era of judicious patient selection and
adequate preconditioning regimen, consisting of fluids and mannitol and also to understand
its impact on long-term renal function and patient survival.
This is a retrospective cohort study of all adult patients receiving cisplatin based chemotherapy
for treatment of head and neck cancer between 2005 and 2011 at Karmanos Cancer Center,
Detroit, Michigan. Cisplatin-associated AKI is dose dependent, and therefore, we limited our
study to include patients receiving highest dose of cisplatin (head and neck cancer patients).
The study protocol was approved by Wayne State University Institutional Review Board
(approval number 056013MP2E). Patient records/information was anonymized and
de-identified prior to analysis.
All patients had their baseline renal function assessed via serum creatinine and the oncologist
prescribed cisplatin based chemotherapy only for those with serum creatinine <1.5 mg/dL.
Patients were admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay and received 25 grams of mannitol
and a liter of D5 water/normal saline before and two liters immediately after cisplatin infusion.
Additional hydration with a liter of D5 water/normal saline was also provided on days 3 and 7
after chemotherapy. Serum potassium, magnesium, and creatinine were obtained before
starting chemotherapy and again on days 1, 3 and 7. Patients received additional cycles at
threeweek intervals, per the recommendation of the oncologist. The dosing, hydration, and
laboratory tests were obtained at the time points described above. Over 90% of these patients also
received concomitant radiation therapy.
Patient charts were reviewed and the following data were collected: demographics, history of
hypertension, diabetes, smoking and alcohol; weight, height, body mass index (BMI); site and
stage of cancer, dose of cisplatin per cycle and number of cycles; serum creatinine, potassium,
and magnesium at baseline, after each cycle, and at 1 and 12 months after last cycle; use of
medications that can affect kidney function such as diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme
inhibitors, angiotensin receptor inhibitors, NSAIDS, aminoglycoside, and CT with intravenous
contrast prior to every cycle. PEG tube placements for fluid and nutritional support were also
noted for every patient. PEG was placed as per the discretion of the oncologist and indication
was losing 10% of baseline weight while on chemo-radiation. Renal function was assessed
using serum creatinine and eGFR values obtained via CKD-EPI equation .
Outcomes and variables
The primary end point was incidence and risk factors for development of AKI associated with
high dose cisplatin infusion. The serum creatinine obtained on four occasions: at days 0 and 1
during their hospital stay for infusion and thereafter on days 3 and 7 at their out-patient visit
after infusion. AKI was attributed to cisplatin only if there was a persistent rise in serum
creatinine (on both day 3 and day 7 from baseline) with a concomitant decline in serum magnesium
and potassium, in absence of use of nephrotoxic agents and not reversed with hydration.
Development of AKI was evaluated after each cycle. The grading of severity of renal dysfunction was
per KDIGO: Stage I: 1.5 to 1.9 times or 0.3 mg/dL pre-treatment value; Stage II: 2.0–2.9
times pre-treatment value and Stage III: 3.0 times pre-treatment value or increase in serum
creatinine to 4.0 mg/dL or requiring renal replacement therapy. Thus, there were four
groups of patients: no AKI, Stage I AKI, Stage II AKI, and Stage III AKI.
The secondary outcomes of interest were impact of cisplatin-associated AKI on long-term
kidney function and patient survival. Twelve-month eGFR was calculated on all patients and
was compared among the four groups of patients. Fraction of patients with GFR < 60ml/min
was also compared among the groups. The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results
(SEER) dataset carries detailed information on all cancer patients including their vital status.
The vital status is matched with the National Death Index and Death File from State of
Michigan. The dataset is held by the Epidemiology Research Core at Karmanos Cancer Institute and
was used to retrieve vital status and cause of death on all patients included in this study.
The incidence of cisplatin-associated AKI was calculated for the entire cohort and also for each
stage. Changes in eGFR, magnesium, potassium at baseline and at time of injury were assessed.
The baseline characteristics, past medical history, site and stage of cancer, dose and number of
cycles of cisplatin, use of PEG tube, serum creatinine, potassium, and magnesium prior to
treatment were compared among the four groups. Multivariate logistic regression models were
created to assess risk factors for cisplatin-associated AKI. Kaplan-Meier curves were
constructed to plot patient survival in the four groups based on severity of AKI and log rank test
was used to compare their survival. Cox proportional hazard models were constructed to study
the impact of AKI on patient survival after adjusting for differences in baseline demographics
and clinical characteristics. The continuous variables were analyzed via ANOVA or
KruskalWallis tests, followed by Bonferroni correction for multiple group comparisons. The
categorical variables were analyzed via chi-square test or Fisher’s exact test. For these tests, a two sided
p-value 0.05 was considered statistically significant. SAS version 9.3 (SAS Institute, Cary,
NC) was used to perform analyses and generate graphics.
The 233 patients with head and neck cancer received a total of 629 cycles of cisplatin during
the study period. One-hundred ninety-two (83%) patients underwent more than one cycle,
and the median number of cycles was 3 (range 1–6). The mean dose of cisplatin at each cycle
was 99±9 mg/m2. The mean age of the study patients was 53.6±9.3 years, 76% were males, and
30% were African American. The mean eGFR for the cohort was 116.7±9.1 mL/min/1.732m2.
Of the 233 patients, 158 (68%) did develop AKI; 77 (49%) developed Stage I, 55 (35%)
developed Stage II, and 26 (16%) developed Stage III AKI (Fig 1). None of the patients with Stage III
AKI required dialysis. The baseline characteristics of patients in each of the four groups are
shown in Table 1. The mean age, gender, history of hypertension, alcohol consumption, height,
weight, BMI, cisplatin dose, cancer site and stage, and PEG tube use did not differ among the
groups. African Americans, patients with history of diabetes, and smokers were more likely to
have higher stages of cisplatin-associated AKI (p<0.05). While the dose per cycle was not
different among the four groups, patients with higher Stages of AKI received fewer cycles of
cisplatin, and therefore, had lower cumulative dose of cisplatin, possibly due to interruption of
therapy due to AKI. The baseline serum creatinine, potassium, and magnesium were
statistically significantly lower in patients with higher stages of AKI, possibly reflecting poor
nutritional status as suggested by an inverse trend in weight and severity of AKI. Higher stages of
cisplatin-associated AKI were associated with a greater decline in serum potassium (Stage II &
III vs. 0; p<0.01) and magnesium (Stage II vs. 0; p <0.01).
Fig 1. Pie-Chart of AKI and its severity.
No AKI (n = 108, 46%)
AKI (n = 125, 54%)
Stage I (n = 41, 33%)
Stage II (n = 58, 47%)
Stage III (n = 26, 20%)
*multiply by 88.4 to convert mg/dL to μmol/L
**multiply by 0.5 to convert mEq/L to mmol/L
Multivariate analyses showed that only African American race is a risk factor for
development of CN (odds ratio 2.8, 95% CI 1.3 to 6.3; p = 0.01, Table 2). Fig 2 shows the trend in eGFR
at baseline, at treatment/AKI and 1 and 12 months thereafter. The use of cisplatin was
associated with a decline in eGFR in all patients and the magnitude of decline increased with severity
of AKI. The eGFR improved at 1 month but never returned to baseline and remained
persistently low at 12 months. Patients with Stage III AKI had the greatest decline in eGFR from
baseline to 12 months than patients with no AKI (38% versus 7%; p<0.01) and had the lowest
eGFR at 12 months 75±34 mL/min/1.732m2; p = 0.05; Fraction of patients with eGFR <60
mL/min increased with severity of AKI (22, 31, 31, 54%; respectively p = 0.02).
Fig 3 shows Kaplan Meier curves for patient survival based on stages of AKI. The median
survival among patients with no AKI, Stage I, Stage II and Stage III AKI was 112, 79, 55, 24
months respectively. Patients with Stage III AKI had lower survival than patients that did not
develop AKI or developed Stage I or II AKI; p <0.01. On multivariate analyses using Cox
proportional hazard model, the patients with Stage III AKI continued to have lower survival with
hazard ratio 2.1; p = 0.01. The risk of death was higher among patients with AKI than no AKI
OR (95% Confidence Interval)
[HR (95%CI) are as follows: grade I: 1.54 (0.92–2.61); p = 0.09, grade II: 1.76 (1.02–3.07);
p = 0.04 and grade III 3.49 (1.91–6.40); p <0.01]. The causes of death were predominantly
related to recurrent cancer (44%) or development of secondary malignancy elsewhere (40%).
Only a few were due to cardiovascular or infectious reasons (12%). There were no differences
in causes of death by stage of nephrotoxicity (p = 0.69).
Our study reports that over half of the patients receiving high dose cisplatin and radiation for
treatment of head and neck cancer develop AKI despite careful patient selection, liberal
hydration, and use of mannitol to maintain urinary flow. Unlike prior reports, all cases of AKI were
Fig 2. Changes in eGFR at baseline, at treatment/AKI, 1 and 12 months.
Fig 3. Long term patient survival based on severity of AKI.
carefully screened for common etiologies of renal dysfunction and the diagnosis of
cisplatinassociated AKI was supported by persistent decline in renal function and a concomitant drop
in serum magnesium and potassium.
African American race and history of smoking were found to be major risk factors for
development of cisplatin-induced AKI. Shord et al.  reviewed medical records of 62 patients
receiving high dose cisplatin for head and neck cancer and reported that African American
race was a risk factor for development of nephrotoxicity. It is unclear if it is due to genetic
differences in drug metabolism or inherent predisposition to kidney disease. History of smoking
has also been reported a risk factor for cisplatin associated nephrotoxicity . It is possible that
since we had a high proportion of American Americans (30%) and smokers (80%) in our study
that these were noted to be risk factors. Although hypertension and diabetes has been noted by
others  to be risk factors for cisplatin-associated AKI; our results suggests a trend but did
not reach statistical significance, perhaps due to small numbers. There have been other reports
where diabetes and hypertension have not been shown to affect cisplatin-induced
nephrotoxicity [6,8,10]. Ours is the first report suggesting that placement of a PEG tube reduces the risk of
AKI, perhaps by facilitating nutrition and hydration. Mizuno et al.  reported that patients
with advanced cancer were at higher risk of cisplatin-associated AKI due to poor nutrition and
hydration. Patients with advanced cancer had lower serum albumin, reflecting poor nutritional
status. Recently, Kidera et al.  reported that magnesium supplementation also confers renal
protection during cisplatin administration. PEG tube placement should be considered in
patients with advanced cancer and with risk factors for AKI to maintain hydration, nutrition,
and magnesium supplementation.
Our study shows that cisplatin infusion is associated with an acute drop in eGFR in all,
regardless of clinical diagnosis of AKI. The reduction in eGFR on all patients suggests an acute
vasoconstrictive effect of cisplatin on the kidney, similar to that seen with use of other
nephrotoxic agents such as aminoglycosides, amphotericin B, etc. At one month after the infusion,
eGFR improves in all patients but never returns to baseline and remains statistically
significantly lower in those with higher stages of AKI. It is well known in general population that
reduced renal function is associated with increased all-cause mortality. We found that in
patients with higher stages of cisplatin-associated AKI also have inferior survivals. Unlike the
general population, the decreased survival noted in the patients that developed severe AKI is
due to early recurrence of cancer, or development of a cancer elsewhere, but not due to
cardiovascular disease. Uremia has been reported to increase recurrence of squamous cell cancer but
we do not have sufficient data to demonstrate such an association. Thus, cessation of cisplatin
based chemotherapy due to its nephrotoxicity is a serious limitation to long-term control of
cancer and calls for early adoption of renoprotective measures such as placement of PEG tube
to maintain hydration, nutritional and electrolyte balance.
The limitations of our study are its retrospective nature and small sample size due to
inclusion of patients with head and neck cancer only. The high incidence of AKI in our cohort could
be due to the high risk nature of the group of patients receiving high dose cisplatin and
concomitant radiation therapy to oral/pharyngeal cavity, making it difficult to maintain hydration and
nutrition. Patients with cisplatin-associated AKI were noted to have decreased survival; it is
unclear if this was due to abbreviated treatment or use of alternative agents with inferior
oncologic effects. Currently, we do not have complete information on cancer treatment of
individuals who developed AKI, and we had to discontinue cisplatin based therapy. Lastly, we do not
have urinalysis on all patients after treatment so cannot comment on development of
proteinuria in patients with CKD at follow-up. The strength of our study was the strict definition of
AKI, ruling any other contributing factors and demonstration of concomitant decline in
potassium and magnesium to support that the AKI was indeed related to cisplatin use. All patients
were well hydrated and were given mannitol to maintain good urine flow and were monitored
closely at days 3 and 7 for additional hydration and correcting electrolyte imbalance. Our study
population was also heterogeneous with a third of patients being African Americans.
In conclusion, we report that over half the patients receiving high dose of cisplatin and
radiation therapy for treatment of head and neck cancer develop AKI and 20% develop Stage III
AKI, resulting in long-term loss of renal function and poor patient survival due to early cancer
recurrence or development of secondary malignancy elsewhere. African American race and
history of smoking were noted to be risk factors for development of AKI. PEG tube placement
should be recommended to maintain hydration and nutrition, especially in high risk patients.
Conceived and designed the experiments: MD ZB PC GY AS. Analyzed the data: MD ZB PC
KG MS HL. Wrote the paper: MD KG ZB PC. Data collection: KG MS SC CT ZB. Statistical
analysis: MD. Supervision or mentorship: MD PC.
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