Radiation Oncologist Characteristics and their Association with Outcomes in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer

Abstract [from journal]

Purpose: Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is widely used in the treatment of head and neck cancers (HNC). There is not enough evidence to suggest that some radiation oncologists (ROs) are associated with better outcomes in patients with HNC. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis to evaluate the effect of ROs' characteristics on outcomes in patients with HNC treated with IMRT.

Methods and Materials: The study used the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results-Medicare linked database to identify patient characteristics. Physician records were obtained from the American Medical Association. Logistic regression models with propensity scores were analyzed to look for an association between RO characteristics and patient outcomes.

Results: RO characteristics showed that approximately 30% of ROS completed their training in or after the year 2000 (recently trained), and 17% were in top decile of treatment volume (high volume). Less than 3% of ROs work in academic settings. We found that ROs who were recently trained have higher odds (odds ratio [OR]: 1.10; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.011-1.191) compared with those who were not. In addition, ROs who were treating high volumes of patients have higher odds (OR: 1.08; 95% CI, 1.010-1.165) compared with those treating low volumes of an event of adverse effect of IMRT or death among patients. ROs who work in academic settings have a protective effect (OR: 0.72; 95% CI, 0.569-0.925).

Conclusions: ROs who were recently trained and had a high treatment volume are associated with poorer outcomes among patients with HNC who receive IMRT treatment.