Cost of Long-Course Radiotherapy for Lung Cancer Analyzed

Additional costs justified by longer survival for inoperable lung cancer patients

MONDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The expense of longer course, less-intense palliative radiotherapy is justified in poor-prognosis non-small-cell lung cancer patients because it results in prolonged survival, according to a cost-utility analysis published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Wilbert B. van den Hout, Ph.D., of Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a cost-utility analysis of an earlier trial that compared the efficacy of 10 fractions of 3 gray (Gy) versus two fractions of 8 Gy in 297 patients with inoperable stage IIIA/B or stage IV non-small-cell lung cancer. The initial trial showed that the 10 X 3-Gy group had better survival and less pain, but it did not take into account the higher cost and continued medical expenses of the longer treatment.

In the new cost-utility analysis, quality-of-life was about equal between the two groups, but life expectancy was increased by 39 percent in the 10 X 3-Gy group. The lifetime societal costs of the long-course radiotherapy was $16,490 and the short-course radiotherapy cost $11,164 -- a $5,326 difference. Although long-course therapy is more expensive, the improvement in survival suggests it provides better value for the money.

"The additional costs of the protracted radiotherapy schedule were justified by longer survival rather than improved quality of life," study authors conclude.

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