Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Some good news on cancer

In the long-run, death rates from cancer are falling.  The L.A. Times reports: In the year to come, an estimated 1,688,780 people in the United States are expected to get a cancer diagnosis, and cancer will claim the lives of a projected 600,920. That death toll, however grim, represents a death rate from cancer that […]

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Are new anti-cancer drugs worth the cost?

The high price of cancer treatment often grabs headlines. But how much have patients benefited from these new treatments.  A paper by Howard et al. (2016) look at new cancer treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), metastatic kidney, breast, or lung tumors and they generally find that the answer is ‘yes’, recent anti-cancer treatments have delivered […]

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Cancer deaths are rising…is that a good thing?

A JAMA Oncology paper estimating the global burden of cancer is getting a lot of attention in the press.  The study’s key findings are: In 2015, there were 17.5 million cancer cases worldwide and 8.7 million deaths. Between 2005 and 2015, cancer cases increased by 33% A 33% increase in cancer cases!!! There must be an […]

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Cancer drug pricing in Europe

How do Euroepan countries reimburse for pharmaceuticals? A paper by Pauwels et al. (2014) provides an nice summary. I review that article today. With the exception of Germany, most countries had a national and/or regional drug budget.  Germany is also unique in that only Germany and the UK allow for free pricing, whereas other countries […]

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Measuring Quality in Cancer Care

Identifying high-quality, cancer care is a laudable goal.  However, a recent article by Alvarnas (2016) says the way many are trying to measure quality of cancer care currently is inadequate.  Specifically: Quality and value are multidimensional, but the narrow focus of many quality measures undermines their effectiveness and meaningfulness. (Porter 2010) Quality and value measures are all […]

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Patient perspective on cancer care funding

Improvement in survival (a.k.a. efficiacy) clearly are important, but what other factors matter?  According to a systematic literature review by MacLeod, Harris and Mahal (2016), these factors include: patients favour funding for cancer medicines that improve health outcomes demonstrated by ‘clinical efficacy’ [Oh et al.], ‘prolonged survival’ [Goldman et al., Seabury et al. Lakdawalla et al.] and/or […]

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Are expensive cancer drugs worth the money?

A paper by Sebastian Salas-Vega and Elias Mossialos attempts to answer this question looking at nine countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States) using data between 2004 and 2014.  They find that: All nine countries—most notably France and Japan—witnessed an improvement in neoplasm-related years of potential life lost, […]

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Can behavioral health interventions really reduce cancer rates by half?

This is the claim of a new article by Song and Giovannucci (2016) in JAMA, but I am skeptical.  Here is why.  The authors compare cancer incidence and mortality between a low and high risk group.  They defined a patient as low risk based on not smoking, no or moderate alcohol use, BMI between 18.5 […]

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Will a robot conduct your next cancer screening?

Machine learning programs have made dramatic steps in recent years.  For instance, AlphaGo beat a world champion Go player recently.  Playing games is great, but can machine learning improve health care?  Science Daily reports that machine learning algorithms may help improve cancer screening accuracy. Every state in the United States requires cancer cases to be […]

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The value of surrogate endpoints for predicting real-world survival across five cancer types

You can find one of my recent papers measuring how well survival measures from clinical trials (i.e., overall survival, progression free survival, time to progression) translate into real-world survival outcomes in Current Medical Research and Opinion here.  The abstract is below.   Objective It is unclear how well different outcome measures in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) perform in […]

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