Patients with limited-stage small cell lung cancer who are covered by Medicare or Medicaid are less likely to receive radiation treatment, according to new research.

Researchers looked at utilization rates and factors associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy delivery for limited-stage small cell lung cancer cases from 2004 through 2013 in the National Cancer Database.

“A key finding in this study was that government insurance (Medicare/Medicaid) had no impact on chemotherapy administration but was independently associated with lower likelihood of radiation therapy delivery and worse survival,” wrote Todd A. Pezzi, MD, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and his colleagues (JAMA Oncol. 2018 Jan 4. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.4504).

Researchers suggest that programs such as 340B and the Medicaid Drug Discount Program allow for improved access to chemotherapy.

“However, these programs provide no financial assistance for radiation therapy delivered to this high-risk population, which may partially explain why patients with government insurance were significantly less likely to receive radiation therapy,” Dr. Pezzi and his colleagues noted.

“Our findings suggest the need for targeted access improvement to radiation therapy for this population,” they added.

SOURCE: Todd Pezzi, MD, et al. JAMA Oncol. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.4504 .