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Pract Radiat Oncol. 2015 Nov-Dec;5(6):398-405. doi: 10.1016/j.prro.2015.06.013. Epub 2015 Jul 4.

Impact of dynamic changes to a bone metastases pathway in a large, integrated, National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center network.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Electronic address:



Studies suggest equivalent pain relief from bone metastases after radiation therapy with >10-fraction regimens and shorter courses. Although American Society for Radiation Oncology evidence-based guidelines and the Choosing Wisely campaign endorse single-fraction treatments and caution against the use of extended courses, publications report single-fraction utilization rates below 5%. We evaluated the impact of our bone metastasis clinical pathway on the adoption of short-course palliative radiation in a large, integrated radiation oncology network.


We implemented a clinical pathway for the management of bone metastases in 2003 that required the entry of management decisions into an online tool that subjected off-pathway choices to peer review beginning in 2009. In 2014, the pathway was modified to encourage single-fraction treatments, and the use of >10 fractions was considered off pathway. Data were obtained from 16 integrated sites (4 academic, 12 community) from 2003 through 2014. Multivariate logistic regression was conducted to establish factors associated with treatment with a single fraction and with >10 fractions.


In this study, 12,678 unique courses were delivered. From 2003 to 2008, the single-fraction utilization rate was 7.6%. This increased to 10.9% from 2009 to 2013 and to 15.8% in 2014. The odds ratios for single-fraction use were 1.59 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.39-1.81) and 2.58 (95% CI, 2.11-3.15) for 2009-2013 and 2014, respectively. Academic physicians were more likely to treat with a single fraction (odds ratio, 5.00; 95% CI, 4.38-5.71). Use of >10-fraction regimens significantly decreased from 18.6% in 2003-2008 to 15.2% in 2009-2013 and 9.7% in 2014.


Although our single-fraction utilization rate was initially in line with national rates (7.6%), the adoption rate increased to >15%. The use of >10-fraction regimens decreased significantly, predominantly among community practices. By 2014, >90% of courses were delivered with <10 fractions. This study demonstrates that provider-driven clinical pathways are able to standardize practice patterns and promote change consistent with evidence-based guidelines.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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