Radiobiologically based assessments of the net costs of fractionated radiotherapy
Dale RG., Jones B.
Purpose: To examine how the long-term costs of radiation therapy may be influenced by modifications to fractionation schemes, and how any improvements in tumor control might, in principle, be translated into a potential cost saving for the responsible healthcare organization. Methods and Materials: Standard radiobiological modeling based on the linear- quadratic (LQ) model is combined with financial parameters relating to the estimated costs of different aspects of radiotherapy treatment delivery. The cost model includes provision for the long-term costs of treatment failure and enables the extra costs of near optimal radiotherapy to be balanced against suboptimal alternatives, which are more likely to be associated with further radiotherapy, salvage surgery, and continuing care. Results: A number of caveats are essential in presenting a model such as this for the first time, and these are clearly stated. However, a recurring observation is that, in terms of the whole cost of supporting a patient from first radiotherapy treatment onwards, high quality radiotherapy (i.e., based on individual patterns of fractionation that are near optimal for particular subpopulations of tumor) will frequently be associated with the lowest global cost. Conclusions: This work adds weight to the case for identifying fast and accurate predictive assay techniques, and supports the argument that suboptimal radiotherapy is usually more costly in the long term. Although the article looks only at the cost-benefit consequences of altered patterns of fractionation, the method will, in principle, have application to other changes in the way radiotherapy can be performed, e.g., to examining the cost-benefit aspects of tumor dose escalation as a consequence of using advanced conformal treatment planning (10).