When is cancer care cost-effective? A systematic overview of cost-utility analyses in oncology

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010 Jan 20;102(2):82-8. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djp472. Epub 2010 Jan 7.


New cancer treatments pose a substantial financial burden on health-care systems, insurers, patients, and society. Cost-utility analyses (CUAs) of cancer-related interventions have received increased attention in the medical literature and are being used to inform reimbursement decisions in many health-care systems. We identified and reviewed 242 cancer-related CUAs published through 2007 and included in the Tufts Medical Center Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Registry (www.cearegistry.org). Leading cancer types studied were breast (36% of studies), colorectal (12%), and hematologic cancers (10%). Studies have examined interventions for tertiary prevention (73% of studies), secondary prevention (19%), and primary prevention (8%). We present league tables by disease categories that consist of a description of the intervention, its comparator, the target population, and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio. The median reported incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (in 2008 US $) were $27,000 for breast cancer, $22,000 for colorectal cancer, $34,500 for prostate cancer, $32,000 for lung cancer, and $48,000 for hematologic cancers. The results highlight the many opportunities for efficient investment in cancer care across different cancer types and interventions and the many investments that are inefficient. Because we found only modest improvement in the quality of studies, we suggest that journals provide specific guidance for reporting CUA and assure that authors adhere to guidelines for conducting and reporting economic evaluations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / economics
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / economics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • United States