The economic burden of metastatic breast cancer: a systematic review of literature from developed countries

Cancer Treat Rev. 2011 Oct;37(6):405-15. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2010.12.008. Epub 2011 Apr 8.


Objective: Breast cancer, the most common malignant cancer among women in Western countries, has poor prognosis following metastasis. New therapies potentially extend survival, but their value is questioned when benefits are incremental and expensive. The objective of our study was to understand the economic impact of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and its treatment, and to evaluate the designs of these studies.

Methods: We systematically reviewed the MEDLINE-indexed, English-language literature, identifying 31 articles on the economic evaluation of MBC in 10 developed countries, including studies of per-patient costs, gross national costs, and cost-effectiveness models. We also included health technology assessments (HTAs) from government and regulatory agencies.

Results: Total per-patient costs of MBC are only available for Sweden ($17,301-$48,169 annually, depending on patient age (2005 USD)). Most economic analyses of per-patient direct costs originate from the US; across all countries, data indicate that this burden is substantial. Gross national costs of MBC are available only for the UK (cost of incident MBC cases is estimated to be $22 million annually (2002 GBP)). Many cost-effectiveness analyses suggest that a number of new and established treatments are cost-effective compared to standard care in various countries, but many offer small increments in survival. The cost-effectiveness of trastuzumab, capecitabine, and nab-paclitaxel has been evaluated in many recent studies.

Conclusion: Most economic evaluations of MBC have utilized secondary rather than primary data, and have used scenarios and assumptions which may be inaccurate or outdated. The quality of evidence disseminated to decision-makers could be improved by adherence to best practices in cost-effectiveness analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / economics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Developed Countries / economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis