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Arizona Oncology Praises New Guidelines for Patient Care

TUCSON, Ariz., March 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Arizona Oncology is proud to be a part of the larger network that just completed a recently conducted study by US Oncology and Aetna (NYSE: AET) that finds evidence-based care for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) results in an average cost savings of 35 percent over 12 months while demonstrating equivalent health outcomes. The study, which compared patients treated with evidence-based guidelines (also known as 'on pathway') to those treated with non-evidence-based guidelines (also known as 'off pathway'), was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Oncology Practice. Arizona Oncology is united in healing with US Oncology and actively participates in the company's Level I Pathways program.

"This study highlighting new treatment guidelines set by the physicians of US Oncology puts patient care first and demonstrates that the best care doesn't always cost more," said Curtis Mack, M.D., radiation oncologist and Practice President of Arizona Oncology.  "The results of this study offer a paradigm for a chief objective of health care reform.  All of our Arizona Oncology cancer centers participate in pathways keeping our patients at the center of evidence-based care."

The evidence-based medicine pathways are treatment guidelines set by committees of physician specialists within the US Oncology network based on Level I evidence, or evidence that has been published in peer-reviewed journals demonstrating treatment methods that are proven to have the best outcomes with the least harmful side effects for the majority of patients. Aetna provided data on the average payer costs for treating NSCLC patients, providing a key point of comparison to determine cost savings.    

"For several years, US Oncology network physicians have been committed to providing high-quality, cost-effective cancer care through the development and adoption of our evidence-based Level I Pathways," says Marcus Neubauer, M.D., with Kansas City Cancer Center, a physician within the network and  the principal investigator in the study.  "We expected costs to be lower with Pathway adherence, but for us to completely validate Pathways as a quality care, cost-effective solution we needed to show that survival was not compromised; this study proves that the use of Level I Pathways results in enhanced cancer care value while maintaining equivalent clinical outcomes."

Currently, there is limited empirical evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of newer treatment strategies. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to empirically measure the cost-effectiveness of evidence-based treatment guidelines for cancer therapy," says Roy Beveridge, M.D., medical director with US Oncology and investigator on the study. "The results suggest that treating patients according to evidence-based guidelines is a cost-effective strategy for delivering care to patients with NSCLC, especially in the adjuvant and first-line settings. We also found that there were no observed differences in outcomes, suggesting that the added cost associated with treating patients off Pathways did not translate to improved outcomes. This is a great example of cancer care that can be delivered efficiently and effectively, while saving reducing the financial burden on patients as well as the nation's health care system."

"The treatment of cancer requires the most accurate information and research to optimize the care of our patients," said Dr. Mack. "This study has proven that we can save money to the healthcare system while improving the quality of life for our patients."

"Through our collaboration with US Oncology, we were able to work together to study how to improve the quality of care people receive when they are undergoing cancer treatment, while also showing that evidence-based medicine can reduce health care costs," said Lonny Reisman, M.D., Aetna's Chief Medical Officer. "This study also shows the benefits of physicians and insurers working together to provide data and results. We look forward to continuing to work with US Oncology to further research ways we can collaborate to improve the quality of care for Americans battling cancer."

US Oncology, Inc. supports the nation's foremost cancer treatment and research network in association with more than 1,300 physicians who work in 493 communities across the United States. The company created Level I Pathways, a physician-led initiative that ensures the consistent delivery of value-driven, evidence-based treatment, to drive quality care for patients diagnosed with the most common cancers. The underlying goal of Level I Pathways is to delineate treatment options that maximize survival benefit, minimize toxicities, and provide cost-savings advantages that benefit both the patient and the payer.

Lung cancer is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, following skin cancer, and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. NSCLC makes up approximately 80 percent of lung cancer cases in the United States and no single regimen has emerged as the superior treatment choice for patients with advanced cases. There is limited evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of newer treatment strategies. The economic cost of lung cancer is high, estimated at an annual cost of $9 billion.


Patient Identification and Characterization

  • From July 1, 2006 through December 31, 2007, all NSCLC patients initiating a chemotherapy regimen at eight practices within the US Oncology Network were identified.
    • Of a total 1,409 NSCLC patients; 1,095 (78%) were treated 'On-Pathway' while 314 (22%) were treated 'Off-Pathway.'
  • Patients were classified as being treated: 1) 'On Pathway' if they received care according to Level I Pathways treatment recommendations over the entire study time period; 2) 'Off Pathway' if they were treated with any regimens not included Level I Pathways.

Cost Analysis

  • We compared the twelve month cost of care for patients 'On Pathway' vs. 'Off Pathway'.
  • The cost data was provided by Aetna and the analysis was conducted from a payer's perspective and considered only direct costs.
  • The analysis included overall cost and cost broken into several categories, including but not limited to: total cost, outpatient visits, chemotherapy and non-chemotherapy medications, laboratory services, hospitalizations, and ancillary services/therapies.


  • We found that overall cost of care was less for NSCLC patients treated 'On Pathway' compared to patients treated 'Off Pathway'.
  • Over 12 months, average cost of care for patients 'On Pathway' was 35% less compared to patients treated 'Off Pathway'.
  • This cost difference was driven predominately by significantly lower costs for chemotherapy and other medications.
  • We also found that there were no observed differences in 12 month overall survival by Pathway status, suggesting that the added cost associated with treating patients 'Off Pathways' (including therapy beyond 3rd line) may not translate to improved outcomes.

For a full copy of the study, visit the newsroom at

About Arizona Oncology

Arizona Oncology is the largest group of medical professionals in Arizona devoted exclusively to cancer care. With more than 45 practicing physicians, Arizona Oncology serves more patients in Arizona than any other cancer care provider.  Communities served include, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, Green Valley, Oro Valley, Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott Valley, Marana, Safford, Sierra Vista, and Nogales.  Arizona Oncology provides patients with access to the latest treatments, state-of-the- art technology, and an extensive research program delivered by medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gynecological oncologists, hematologists and clinical staff. Conducting research in the community setting allows Arizona Oncology to gather data more quickly to assess improvements in patient care and allow a wider patient participation.  For more information, please visit

About US Oncology

US Oncology, Inc., headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas, works closely with physicians, payers, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers, to identify and deliver innovative services that enhance patient access to advanced cancer care. US Oncology supports one of the nation's foremost cancer treatment and research networks, accelerating the availability and use of evidence-based medicine and shared best practices.

US Oncology uses its expertise to support every aspect of the cancer care delivery system—from drug development to distribution and outcomes measurement—enabling the company to help increase the efficiency and safety of cancer care. According to the company's last quarterly earnings report, US Oncology is affiliated with 1,310 physicians operating in 493 locations, including 98 radiation oncology facilities in 39 states. For more information, visit the company's web site,

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see

SOURCE Arizona Oncology

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SOURCE Arizona Oncology
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