Purpose: End-of-life (EOL) chemotherapy has been described as the most widespread, wasteful, and unnecessary practice in oncology, with benchmarking aimed to reduce physician use of chemotherapy within 14 days of EOL. We evaluated the recent transformation of EOL chemotherapy and targeted therapy practices nationally.
Methods: In patients older than 65 years of age who died as a result of breast (n = 19,887), lung (n = 79,613), colorectal (n = 29,844), or prostate (n = 17,910) cancer between 2007 and 2013, we evaluated the guideline-benchmarked measure of chemotherapy use within 14 days of EOL in SEER-Medicare. Comparison outcomes were nonbenchmarked measures of chemotherapy and targeted therapy across time points within 6 months of EOL. Cochran-Armitage test was used to evaluate temporal trends. Multilevel logistic models and intraclass correlation coefficient was used to evaluate variation in EOL chemotherapy use at the physician level.
Results: From 2007 to 2013, chemotherapy within 14 days of EOL declined from 6.7% to 4.9% of patients (Ptrend < .001; ∆ = -1.8%). Similar declines occurred for chemotherapy within 1 month (Ptrend < .001; ∆ = -1.8%) and 2 months (Ptrend < .001; ∆ = -1.3%) of EOL. In contrast, chemotherapy within 4 to 6 months of EOL rose (Ptrend ≤ .04; ∆ = 0.7% to 1.7%), and 43.0% of all patients received chemotherapy within 6 months of EOL. Frequency of targeted therapy use across all time points within 6 months of EOL was stable to marginally rising from 2007 to 2013 (Ptrend = .09 to .82; ∆ = -0.2% to 1.8%); overall, 1.2% received targeted therapy within 14 days and 3.6% within 1 month of EOL. By 2013, 13.2% of patients received any targeted therapy within 6 months of EOL. In a multilevel model, 5.19% (intraclass correlation coefficient) of variation in 14-day EOL chemotherapy was attributed to the physician level.
Conclusion: With national benchmarking, chemotherapy within 14 days of EOL successfully declined to less than 5%, with comprehensive benchmark uptake by physicians. Results may inform current strategies to help to achieve high-value EOL oncology practice.