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Cancer Combo Therapy Is Cost-Effective

Initial outlay exceeds that of single treatments, but those costs are recovered over time, study finds

TUESDAY, Nov. 7, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Combination cancer treatments are initially more expensive than single-agent cancer therapies, but they offer better results for patients and prove more cost-effective in the long term, a new study finds.

A team at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia explained that single cancer treatments may cost more in the long run due to expenses associated with treating patient complications and cancer recurrence.

The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, in Philadelphia.

The study authors analyzed 47 months of treatment costs and clinical outcomes for 66 Medicare patients with locally advanced laryngeal cancer who took part in a clinical trial between 1991 and 1996. The trial was designed to compare three treatment regimens -- two that combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy and one that used radiation therapy alone.

"In overall survival rates, there was no significant difference among the three treatment arms," lead author Dr. Andre A. Konski, a radiation oncologist and director of clinical research in the radiation oncology department at Fox Chase Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

"However, patients receiving induction chemotherapy as well as radiation or concurrent chemo-radiation therapy had better outcomes in terms of disease-free survival, local and regional control and preservation of their larynx [voice box]," Konski said.

"In our subsequent economic analysis, these better outcomes translated into significant savings of dollars that were spent on treating patients for complications and recurrences that occurred with the less effective therapy of radiation by itself," he added.

Konski and his colleagues found that "radiation alone costs less in and of itself -- the expected mean 47-month cost of that treatment was $57,357 -- compared to the two treatment arms that included chemotherapy. Concurrent chemo-radiation cost a little more ($57,870) and represented an incremental increase of $697 per life year of overall survival and $2,048 per disease-free life year."

"Induction chemotherapy plus radiation therapy was the most cost effective. At a 47-month cost of $49,018, this treatment saved $7,031 per disease-free and $9,336 per life year of total survival," Konski said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about cancer treatments.

SOURCE: Fox Chase Cancer Center, news release, Nov. 7, 2006
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