Study Finds Growing Socioeconomic and Racial Disparities in Management of Brain Metastases

A new study in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network highlights the need to improve access to care for minority and lower-income populations

Article ID: 687054

Released: 19-Dec-2017 10:25 AM EST

Source Newsroom: National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®)

  • Credit: JNCCN

    Benjamin H. Kann, MD Radiation Oncology Yale School of Medicine

  • Credit: JNCCN

    December cover of JNCCN

Newswise — FORT WASHINGTON, PA [December 19, 2017] — Increasing use of a potentially life-saving treatment for metastatic cancer is leaving too many vulnerable patients behind, according to a new study from Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital published in JNCCNJournal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. The researchers looked into use of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) following radiotherapy (RT) to treat brain metastases in patients with melanoma, lung, breast, or colorectal cancers. They found that the use of SRS has increased dramatically, but unevenly, in recent years.

“The upfront costs, infrastructure, and multidisciplinary expertise needed for SRS delivery compared with traditional whole-brain radiation may be contributing to racial and socioeconomic barriers to access,” according to lead researcher, Benjamin H. Kann, MD, Yale University School of Medicine. “Investment in a dedicated radiosurgery system, whether using Gamma Knife Radiosurgery or linear accelerator-based modifications, can cost several millions of dollars upfront. Additionally, physician, physicist, and therapist training is required, which involves time commitment and often off-site course attendance.”

More than 20% of patients with cancer develop brain metastases.[1] This study examined data from the National Cancer Database (NCDB) between 2004 and 2014, focusing on people over age 18, who were treated with radiation to the brain for one of the four malignancies most associated with brain metastases in the United States. 75,953 patients met the criteria for inclusion, 12,250 (16.1%) of whom received SRS.

They found the overall utilization rate for SRS increased from 9.8% in 2004 to 25.6% in 2014, with the rate of uptake accelerating after 2008. SRS use increased more for patients with income levels of $63,000 and above, as well as those treated at academic facilities, living in areas with higher percentages of high school graduates, or possessing private insurance. There were lower rates of SRS among patients with Medicare, Medicaid, or no insurance. Moreover, patients of black race or Hispanic ethnicity were less likely to be treated with SRS even when the researchers excluded the melanoma data (which has a predominantly white population).

“Increased education surrounding SRS for referring providers and patients, networking and relationship-building between community practices and larger cancer centers, as well as offering SRS training programs for providers may help to improve access for minority patients and those in lower income regions,” said Kann. “Transportation to an SRS facility may also be challenging for underprivileged patients, so it could be helpful to strengthen social programs that help patients travel to SRS centers.”

The study found that from 2004-2013, one-year actuarial survival improved from 24.1% to 49.6% for patients selected for SRS, but only from 21.0% to 26.3% for non-SRS patients. However, it’s not clear whether SRS-receipt itself improves survival, or if this association is due to the favorable prognosis of the patients selected.

“Over the past decade, advances in cancer treatment offering better control of systemic disease have increasingly led to patients living longer following a diagnosis of metastatic disease,” said Christine Tsien, MD, a radiation oncologist at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Tsien is a member of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) Panel for Central Nervous System cancers, and a contributor to the NCCN Radiation Therapy Compendium™. “Recent randomized studies have also demonstrated that treatment of a small number of brain metastases (1-3) with stereotactic radiosurgery showed a decrease in neurocognitive decline compared to whole brain radiotherapy without compromising overall survival[2]. Based on these results, there has been a recent, dramatic shift towards the use of stereotactic radiosurgery instead of whole brain radiotherapy in patients diagnosed with brain metastases of limited volume. How SRS technology is being made available, including any sociodemographic disparities, is of significant interest not only to oncologists but also to the greater community.”

Further research is needed, in order to determine the reasons for these worsening disparities and their clinical implications on intracranial control, neurocognitive toxicities, quality of life, and survival for patients with brain metastases.

Complimentary access to the study, “Radiosurgery for Brain Metastases: Changing Practice Patterns and Disparities in the United States” is available until February 11, 2018 at JNCCN.org

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About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 27 leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education, is dedicated to improving the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care so that patients can live better lives. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers.

The NCCN Member Institutions are: Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Omaha, NE; Case Comprehensive Cancer Center/University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland, OH; City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA; Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center | Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA; Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, NC; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA; Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle, WA; The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD; Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ, Jacksonville, FL, and Rochester, MN; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL; The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Columbus, OH; Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY; Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN; Stanford Cancer Institute, Stanford, CA; University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birmingham, AL; UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA; UCSF Helen Diller Famly Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, CA; University of Colorado Cancer Center, Aurora, CO; University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI; The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX; University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, WI; Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN; and Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital, New Haven, CT. 

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[1] Barnholtz-Sloan JS, Sloan AE, Davis FG, et al. Incidence proportions of brain metastases in patients diagnosed (1971-2001) in the Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Surveillance System. J Clin Oncol 2004;22:2865-2872

[2] Brown P et al, JAMA 316(4):401-409, 2016


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