Background: Multidisciplinary clinics have been recommended for the evaluation of patients with lung cancer. Evidence to support this recommendation, however, is limited. A single-center, retrospective review of lung cancer patients at a Veterans Affairs hospital was performed comparing timeliness of diagnostic and treatment decisions during the operation of a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology clinic (MTOC) with a period after it closed (non-MTOC), during which only a weekly multidisciplinary conference was held.
Methods: Patients were identified from a tumor registry. Manual chart reviews were performed on all patients. Outcome measures included time from initial presentation to diagnosis (TTD) and time from diagnosis to treatment initiation (TTT).
Results: Three hundred forty-five patients (244 in MTOC, 101 in non-MTOC) diagnosed with lung cancer between 1999 and 2003 were included in the study. Baseline characteristics were similar between the two groups. Median TTD was 48 days (95% confidence interval [CI]: 37-61) and 47 days (95% CI: 39-55) in the MTOC (n = 164) and non-MTOC cohorts (n = 89), respectively (p = 0.09). Median TTT was 22 days (95% CI: 20-27) and 23 days (95% CI: 20-34) in the MTOC (n = 165) and non-MTOC cohorts (n = 89), respectively (p = 0.71). There was no difference in overall survival.
Conclusion: Retrospective comparison of sequential cohorts failed to reveal benefit in the timeliness of care measures during the time period of MTOC operation. Potential confounders include the absence of a surgeon in the MTOC setting, an ongoing weekly multidisciplinary conference in the non-MTOC cohort, and existing infrastructures based on previous MTOC experiences and past provider experience. Confirmation of these findings in other health care settings is warranted, preferably in a prospective fashion.