HOUSTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – There are at least three evidence-based practices for reducing the costs of locoregional therapy for early breast cancer without compromising the quality of care, according to Dr. Rachel Adams Greenup of the department of surgery at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina.

Management of axilla per the ACOSOG Z0011 study, adherence to joint Society of Surgical Oncology/American Society of Radiation Oncology (SSO/ASTRO) margin guidelines, and alternative radiation regimens following lumpectomy can all cut costs without compromsing quality of care, she said at the annual Society of Surgical Oncology Symposium.

The results of ACOSOG Z0011, published in 2010, were universally acknowledged to be practice changing. They showed that for women undergoing lumpectomy and radiation therapy for T1-2 invasive breast cancer and positive sentinel lymph node biopsy, completion axiallary dissection did not improve either disease-free or overall survival (DFS/OS). There were low rates of locoregional recurrence regardless of whether patients received axillary node dissection.

The potential savings from eliminating the routine practice of axillary dissection were estimated to be a 64% reduction in inpatient days, and an 18% decrease in perioperative costs.

The SSO/ASTRO margin guidelines , published in 2014, were developed by a multidisciplinary panel based on a meta-analysis of 33 studies involving more than 28,000 patients. The guidelines note that positive surgical margins are associated with a 2-fold increase in ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence, with “no ink on tumor” sufficient for a negative margin. The guidelines say that further margin width resections do not decrease same-breast recurrences.

In a related analysis of the cost implications, Dr. Greenup and colleagues noted that there are wide variations in clinical practice, and that 20% of women with close but negative margins were re-excised needlessly. Eliminating 25,000 unnecessary re-excisions annually would save $31 million dollars. These savings do not include cost reductions from an estimated 8% to 12% reduction in conversions to mastectomy that would be avoided, the authors calculated.

The costs of radiation following lumpectomy correlate directly with the number of delivered radiation fractions or treatment sessions, and also with the technique. Alternatives to standard radiation schedules include the following:

Per-patient costs for each of these options in 2011 ranged from $0 for no radiation, as in CALGB 9343, to $5342 for APBI, $9122 for HF-WBI, and $13m358 for conventionally fractionated WBI.

Dr Greenup and colleagues looked at data on 43,247 women in the National Cancer Data Base with T1-T2, NO invasive breast cancers treated with lumpectomy, and compared the actual costs of treatment with the evidence-based alternative. They found that 26% of patients were treated with the least cost-effective radiation, while nearly all of the remaining patients received more expensive radiation than necessary. If every patient were treated with the most cost-effective approach, there would be an estimated 39% reduction in costs, translating into a saving of $164 million over a single year, they reported in an abstract presented at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“We can’t make decisions based on cost alone, and value is certainly more important, but clinical trials, moving forward, should incorporate cost information. There is an opportunity to have small changes in clinical practice have the potential to make dramatic reductions in health care spending, and there are lots of opportunities in early stage breast cancer to practice evidence-based care while reducing health care spending,” Dr. Greenup concluded.

Dr. Greenup reported having no relevant financial disclosures.