Showing posts with label decision-making. Show all posts
Showing posts with label decision-making. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2019

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail"

It was called "instrument bias" by Abraham Maslow and Abraham Kaplan, but for present purposes, we'll call it "specialty bias" - over-reliance on the tool one is most familiar with. Kishan et al. conducted a survey among urologists ("Uros") and radiation oncologists ("ROs") concerning their opinions about how best to treat high-risk patients in various situations from initial treatment to recurrence after initial treatment. They tabulated responses from:

  • 846 ROs and 407 Uros
  • 63% of ROs and 96% of Uros practiced in the US; the rest mainly in Australia and NZ
  • They had a median of over 10 years of experience
  • 41% of ROs and 51% of Uros were in private practice


Initial Treatment of High Risk Patients

ROs were 5 times more likely to believe that initial treatment with radiotherapy (RT) with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and with local salvage therapy, if needed, was preferred. They were also twice as likely to believe that it offered the patient equivalent outcomes as radical prostatectomy (RP) and salvage radiation (SRT), if needed. Uros were 4 times more likely to believe that RP ± SRT was the preferred treatment. Only 29% believed that RT had a place in initial treatment.


Preferred Initial Treatment
RO
Uro
RP±SRT
18%
71%
RT+ADT±local salvage
30%
6%
No preference
52%
23%

The "right" answer is...

Currently, the American Urological Association (AUA) and the American Society of Radiation Oncologists guidelines state:
"Clinicians should recommend radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy plus ADT as standard treatment options for patients with high-risk localized prostate cancer. (Strong Recommendation; Evidence Level: Grade A)"

NCCN guidelines also list both as options. They note, however:
"A large, multicenter, retrospective cohort analysis that included 1809 men with Gleason score 9–10 prostate cancer found that multimodality therapy with EBRT, brachytherapy, and ADT was associated with improved prostate cancer-specific mortality and longer time to distant metastasis than either radical prostatectomy or EBRT with ADT. In addition, an analysis of outcomes of almost 43,000 men with high-risk prostate cancer in the National Cancer Database found that mortality was similar in men treated with EBRT, brachytherapy, and ADT versus those treated with radical prostatectomy, but was worse in those treated with EBRT and ADT . (MS25)
This can only be decided definitively by a randomized clinical trial, but given the difficulties of recruiting for such a trial, patients must make the decision based on lower level evidence.

Adjuvant RT (ART) and SRT for High-Risk Patients after RP

ROs were 2.7 times as likely to advocate for ART with undetectable PSA, and were twice as likely to believe that ART is underutilized. Conversely, Uros were 2.5 times more likely to approve of waiting until PSA has risen to 0.2 ng/ml. Most believed it is utilized appropriately (it is seldom utilized in this situation) or overutilized. About 2 in 5 ROs and Uros were OK with early SRT.

Two-thirds of ROs thought SRT was appropriate with 2 consecutive rises, or at any detectable level or any level under or equal to 0.1. Less than half of Uros held that belief. ROs were more likely than Uros to believe that SRT is underutilized.


ART Appropriate
RO
Uro
With undetectable PSA
43%
16%
Early SRT with detectable PSA < 0.2 ng/ml
42%
43%
Delayed SRT with PSA ≥ 0.2 ng/ml
16%
41%


ART Under/Over-Utilized
RO
Uro
Underutilized
75%
38%
Appropriately utilized
21%
43%
Overutilized
4%
19%


Lowest PSA at which SRT is Appropriate
RO
Uro
Detectable
15%
7%
≤ 0.1
21%
19%
At least 0.2
29%
35%
At least 0.4
4%
12%
At least 1.0
1%
7%
At least 2 consecutive rises
30%
20%


SRT Under/Over-Utilized
RO
Uro
Underutilized
65%
43%
Appropriately utilized
34%
52%
Overutilized
1%
5%

The "right" answer is...

Guideline Statement 2. Patients with adverse pathologic findings including seminal vesicle invasion, positive surgical margins, and extraprostatic extension should be informed that adjuvant radiotherapy, compared to radical prostatectomy only, reduces the risk of biochemical recurrence, local recurrence, and clinical progression of cancer. They should also be informed that the impact of adjuvant radiotherapy on subsequent metastases and overall survival is less clear; one of three randomized controlled trials that addressed these outcomes indicated a benefit but the other two trials did not demonstrate a benefit. However, these two trials were not designed to identify a significant reduction in metastasis or death with adjuvant radiotherapy. (Clinical Principle)
 Guideline Statement 3. Physicians should offer adjuvant radiotherapy to patients with adverse pathologic findings at prostatectomy including seminal vesicle invasion, positive surgical margins, or extraprostatic extension because of demonstrated reductions in biochemical recurrence, local recurrence, and clinical progression. (Standard; Evidence Strength: Grade A)
Guideline Statement 8. Patients should be informed that the effectiveness of radiotherapy for PSA recurrence is greatest when given at lower levels of PSA.  (Clinical Principle) 
"...patients should be advised that if recurrence is detected without evidence of distant metastases, then RT should be administered at the earliest sign of PSA recurrence ..."
The 2019 NCCN guidelines state:
Indications for salvage RT include an undetectable PSA that becomes subsequently detectable and increases on 2 measurements or a PSA that remains persistently detectable after RP. Treatment is more effective when pre-treatment PSA is low and PSADT is long.


Salvage for High-Risk Patients after RT

About 2/3 of Uros believed that RP and Cryo are appropriate salvage therapies after biochemical recurrence following primary RT (when imaging was negative for distant metastases). Very few thought salvage radiation or other ablation therapies were appropriate. Among ROs, most approved of salvage RP, but sizeable minorities felt that salvage brachytherapy and salvage cryo was appropriate. About 1 in 5 thought salvage SBRT or salvage HIFU was appropriate.



Salvage therapies after RT failure
RO
Uro
RP
56%
66%
LDR brachytherapy
34%
6%
HDR brachytherapy
42%
10%
SBRT
20%
5%
Cryoablation
40%
69%
HIFU
21%
13%

However, 2/3 of both ROs and Uros and agreed that salvage after RT was not as effective as salvage after RP.


Is salvage after RT as effective as SRT after RP?
RO
Uro
No
64%
66%
Yes
36%
34%

And most of both groups believe that focal salvage is inferior to whole gland salvage after RT failure. But Uros were much more likely to hold this belief vs ROs.


Focal salvage=whole gland salvage?
RO
Uro
No
56%
75%
Yes
44%
25%


The "right" answer is...

NCCN guidelines state:

Salvage RP is an option for highly selected patients with local recurrence after EBRT, brachytherapy, or cryotherapy in the absence of metastases, but the morbidity (ie, incontinence, loss of erection, anastomotic stricture) is high and the operation should be performed by surgeons who are experienced with salvage RP. 
Brachytherapy can be considered in men with biochemical recurrence after EBRT. In a retrospective study of 24 men who had EBRT as primary therapy and permanent brachytherapy after biochemical recurrence, the cancer-free and biochemical relapse-free survival rates were 96% and 88%, respectively, after a median follow-up of 30 months.Results of a phase 2 study of salvage HDR brachytherapy after EBRT included relapse-free survival, distant metastases-free survival, and cause-specific survival rates of 68.5%, 81.5%, and 90.3%, respectively, at 5 years.
HIFU also has been studied for treatment of radiation recurrence. Analysis of a prospective registry of men treated with HIFU for radiation recurrence revealed median biochemical recurrence-free survival at 63 months, 5-year OS of 88%, and cancer-specific survival of 94%.
For a discussion of salvage therapies after RT, see this link. Salvage after RT is generally as effective or better than SRT after RP. Focal salvage is as effective as whole gland salvage in many cases.

What to do about specialty bias

It is not surprising that specialists are more knowledgeable about, and more favorably disposed to their own field (otherwise, they're in the wrong job). However, there are knowledge gaps even within their own field. Many patients expect their doctors to be knowledgeable about their own field, and to be able to compare it to other therapies. We have seen that this is an unrealistic expectation. Here are some recommendations for patients:

  • Don't expect a specialist to be knowledgeable outside his own field. Consult with a variety of specialists, if possible.
  • Remember that it is radiation oncologists, not urologists, who treat and follow-up on SRT for surgical recurrences. ROs are more experienced than Uros at SRT.
  • Salvage brachytherapy after RT recurrence is highly specialized - there aren't many practitioners with expertise. Salvage ablation and salvage SBRT specialists are even more rare. Patients should avoid salvage surgery due to its high morbidity.
  • Second opinions are critical. Finding specialists may involve travel, which may be precluded by cost/insurance limitations.
  • For patients who are inclined to research these topics themselves, they must be aware that the quality of research on all of these topics is low to moderate. There have been very few randomized clinical trials focussed on high risk patients, so we have to make informed judgments based on observational studies or single-arm, single-institution clinical trials in most situations. AUA, ASTRO and NCCN guidelines are updated and may be their best source of information (other than this blog 😉).

Focussing on physicians, the authors recommend interdisciplinary clinics, which might work well in academic centers. However, a substantial proportion of both ROs and Uros were in private practice. They also suggest continuing medical education, and cross-specialty training. Professional organizations typically do not currently require this. Uros do not typically attend ASTRO meetings, nor do ROs attend AUA meetings.

- with thanks to Dr. King for allowing me to see the full text and questionnaire.