Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ann Oncol. 1995 Mar;6(3):267-74.

Cost-effectiveness of palliative chemotherapy in advanced gastrointestinal cancer.

Author information

Department of Oncology, University of Uppsala, Sweden.



Chemotherapy may relieve tumor-related symptoms, may improve quality of life and prolong survival in advanced gastrointestinal cancer. The extent of such improvements is unclear despite the extensive use of this treatment modality, and there are no studies concerning the economic cost of any gain achieved in the quantity and quality of life by chemotherapy.


Between January 1991 and May 1992, 61 patients with inoperable cancer (18 gastric, 22 pancreatic or biliary, and 21 colorectal) were randomized to either primary chemotherapy in addition to best supportive care or to best supportive care. Chemotherapy was allowed in the latter group if the supportive measures did not achieve palliation. All economic costs for medical care were prospectively recorded, and marginal cost-effectiveness analyses were performed.


More patients in the primary chemotherapy group (19/33, 58%) had improved/prolonged high quality of life (QoL-patient, minimum duration 4 months) than in the best supportive care group (8/28, 29%, p < 0.05). Overall survival and quality-adjusted survival were significantly longer in the primary chemotherapy group (median 9 vs. 4 months, p < 0.05), and median 7 vs. 2 months, p < 0.05, respectively). When analysed by cancer site, survival was significantly prolonged in gastric cancer patients (median 10 vs. 4 months, p < 0.02), but not in colorectal (median 12 vs. 6 months, p = 0.1) and pancreatic-biliary cancer patients (median 8 vs. 5 months, p = 0.8). The average cost for all medical care was approximately 50% higher in the primary chemotherapy group, but the average cost per day was the same in the two groups. Hospitalization accounted for most of the costs in both groups. The incremental costs per gained year of life was SEK 166,400 ($21,300), per gained quality-adjusted year of life SEK 157,200 ($20,200), and per QoL-patient SEK 160,300 ($20,600). These costs were lower for gastric and colorectal cancer patients, and much higher for pancreatic-biliary cancer patients.


The results of this study suggest that palliative chemotherapy is cost-effective in patients with advanced gastric and colorectal cancer. Knowledge about survival and quality of life benefits is still limited in patients suffering from gastric and pancreatic-biliary cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center