Patient Characteristics and Costs in Recurrent or Refractory Head and Neck Cancer: Retrospective Analysis of a Community Oncology Database

Clin Ther. 2018 Apr;40(4):562-573. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2018.02.010. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Purpose: The goal of this study was to describe patient characteristics, health resource utilization (HRU), and costs associated with treating recurrent or refractory head and neck cancer (HNC) among patients with disease progression in the community oncology setting.

Methods: This retrospective observational study was conducted by using data from the Vector Oncology Data Warehouse. Patients had been diagnosed with locally advanced or metastatic (stage III-IVc) HNC between January 1, 2007, and October 1, 2015. Patients also had evidence of at least 1 systemic anticancer therapy regimen following the diagnosis of advanced HNC, with at least 1 disease progression. Costs, treatment patterns, and HRU were evaluated beginning with diagnosis of advanced HNC through 3 lines of therapy. Costs of surgery or radiation were not available for inclusion in the analysis. Total cost for the study period and cost per month were analyzed by using a generalized linear regression model.

Findings: The study included 462 patients (median age, 61 years; range, 26-99 years); of these, 81% were male, 77% were white, and 21% were black. At initial diagnosis, the most frequent tumor locations were the hypopharynx/larynx (31%) and the oropharynx (31%). Human papilloma virus testing was most frequent among the oropharynx group (22% tested, 52% positive). Overall, 42% were current tobacco users and 22% were current or past alcohol abusers/excessive users. Platinum-based combination therapies were the most frequently administered chemotherapy in both first (42%) and second (40%) lines of treatment. Through the overall study period (mean, 20.5 months), 74% of patients were hospitalized, 19% had an emergency department visit, and 100% had an office visit. The overall mean (SD) duration of hospital stay was 12.6 days, and the median number of office visits per patient was 35. The mean monthly health care cost for the overall study period was $14,391 (95% CI, 12,739-16,044). Hospitalization costs represented ~57% of the total expenditures. Statistically significant predictors of higher overall cost included primary tumor location in the oral cavity, history of alcohol abuse/excess use, use of cetuximab, and higher comorbidity index. Older age and being stage IV versus other stages of disease at diagnosis were associated with lower overall cost.

Implications: These data suggest that costs of care in patients with recurrent or refractory HNC are related to patient characteristics and treatment patterns. Identification of factors contributing to the costs of care in HNC may provide a useful foundation for developing strategies to control rising costs.

Keywords: chemotherapy; cost; head and neck cancer; health resource utilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / economics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Resources
  • Hospitalization / economics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies