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J Neurosurg Spine. 2019 Nov 1:1-10. doi: 10.3171/2019.7.SPINE19566. [Epub ahead of print]

Association of cancer center type with treatment patterns and overall survival for patients with sacral and spinal chordomas: an analysis of the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2015.

Author information

1Department of Neurological Surgery, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
2Department of Neurosurgery, Case Western Reserve University.
4Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio; and.
5Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, Hinsdale, Illinois.
3Seidman Cancer Center and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.



Chordomas of the spine and sacrum are a rare but debilitating cancer and require complex multidisciplinary care. Studies of other such rare cancers have demonstrated an association of high-volume and/or multidisciplinary centers with improved outcomes and survival. Such an association has been proposed for chordomas, but evidence to support this claim is lacking. The authors performed a study to investigate if treatment facility type is associated with patterns of care and survival for patients with spinal and sacral chordomas by assessing records from a US-based cancer database.


In this observational retrospective cohort study, the authors identified 1266 patients from the National Cancer Database with vertebral column or sacral chordomas diagnosed between 2004 and 2015. The primary study outcome was overall survival, and secondary outcomes included odds of receiving treatment and time to treatment, defined as radiation therapy, surgery, and/or any treatment, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or participation in clinical trials. The results were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, level of education, income, and Charlson/Deyo score.


Of the 1266 patients identified, the mean age at diagnosis was 59.70 years (SD 16.2 years), and the patients were predominantly male (n = 791 [62.50%]). Patients treated at community cancer programs demonstrated an increased risk of death (HR 1.98, 95% CI 1.13-3.47, p = 0.018) when compared to patients treated at academic/research programs (ARPs). The median survival was longest for those treated at ARPs (131.45 months) compared to community cancer programs (79.34 months, 95% CI 48.99-123.17) and comprehensive community cancer programs (CCCPs) (109.34 months, 95% CI 84.76-131.45); 5-year survival rates were 76.08%, 52.71%, and 61.57%, respectively. Patients treated at community cancer programs and CCCPs were less likely to receive any treatment compared to those treated at ARPs (OR 6.05, 95% CI 2.62-13.95, p < 0.0001; OR 3.74, 95% CI 2.23-6.28, p < 0.0001, respectively). Patients treated at CCCPs and community cancer programs were less likely to receive surgery than those treated at ARPs (OR 2.69, 95% CI 1.82-3.97, p = 0.010; OR = 2.64, 95% CI 1.22-5.71, p = 0.014, respectively). Patients were more likely to receive any treatment (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.40-0.87, p = 0.007) and surgery (OR 0.58, 95% CI 0.38-0.88, p < 0.0001) within 30 days at a CCCP compared to an ARP. There were no differences in odds of receiving radiation therapy or time to radiation by facility type.


Clinical care at an ARP is associated with increased odds of receiving treatment that is associated with improved overall survival for patients with spinal and sacral chordomas, suggesting that ARPs provide the most comprehensive specialized care for patients with this rare and devastating oncological disease.


ARP = academic/research program; CCCP = comprehensive community cancer program; NCDB = National Cancer Database; NOS = not otherwise specified; chordoma; oncology; outcomes; sacral; sacrum; spine; survival; treatment patterns


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