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Mohammed W. Rahman, Niti U. Trivedi, Peter B. Bach, and Aaron P. Mitchell

Background: Personal payments from the pharmaceutical industry to US physicians are common and are associated with changes in physicians’ clinical practice and interpretation of clinical trial results. We assessed temporal trends in industry payments to oncologists, with particular emphasis on payments to authors of oncology clinical practice guideline and on payments related to immunotherapy drugs. Methods: We included US physicians with active National Plan and Provider Enumeration System records and demographic data available in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Physician Compare system who had a specialty type of medical oncology or general internal medicine. Medical oncologists serving on NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) Panels were identified manually. Industry payments, and the subset associated with PD-1/PD-L1 drugs, were identified in Open Payments, the federal repository of all transactions of financial value from industry to physicians and teaching hospitals, from 2014 to 2017. Results: There were 13,087 medical oncologists and 85,640 internists who received payments. The mean, annual, per-physician value of payments to oncologists increased from $3,811 in 2014 to $5,854 in 2017, and from $444 to $450 for internists; the median payment increased from $152 to $199 for oncologists and remained at $0 for internists. Oncologists who served on NCCN Guidelines Panels received a greater value in payments and experienced a greater relative increase: mean payments increased from $10,820 in 2014 to $18,977 in 2017, and median payments increased from $500 to $1,366. Among companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs, mean annual per-oncologist payments associated with PD-1/PD-L1 drugs increased from $28 to $773. Total per-oncologist payments from companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs experienced a 165% increase from 2014 to 2017, compared with a 31% increase among similar companies not marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs. Conclusions: Pharmaceutical industry payments increased for US oncologists from 2014 to 2017 more than for general internists. The increase was greater among oncologists contributing to clinical practice guidelines and among pharmaceutical companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs. The increasing flow of money from industry to US oncologists supports ongoing concern regarding commercial interests in guideline development and clinical decision-making.

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Cory L. Anand and Raed A. Dweik

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Melissa S.Y. Thong, Daniel Boakye, Lina Jansen, Uwe M. Martens, Jenny Chang-Claude, Michael Hoffmeister, Hermann Brenner, and Volker Arndt

Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors generally have a higher healthcare utilization (HCU) than the general population due to cancer burden. However, it is unclear which factors are associated with this increased uptake. Our study aimed to (1) compare CRC-related and non-CRC visits to general practitioners (GPs) and medical specialists (MSs) by comorbidities, and (2) assess whether HCU differs by demographic, clinical, and psychological factors. Methods: We used data from a German population-based cohort of 1,718 survivors of stage I–III CRC diagnosed in 2003 through 2010 who provided information on HCU at 5-year follow-up. Multivariable linear regression was used to calculate least-square means of CRC-related and non-CRC HCU according to the Charlson comorbidity index and comorbidity cluster, adjusting for relevant demographic, clinical, and psychological characteristics. Results: A higher comorbidity level was associated with more CRC-related MS visits and non-CRC GP visits. In addition to being strongly associated with non-CRC GP visits, comorbidity clusters were associated with CRC-related GP and MS visits, but their association varied by specific cardiometabolic comorbidities. HCU was less dependent on prognostic factors for CRC, such as age and tumor stage, but was strongly associated with disease recurrence, depression, and emotional functioning. Conclusions: Comorbidities, rather than age or tumor stage, were related to HCU, suggesting that CRC survivors use healthcare mainly for reasons other than cancer 5 years postdiagnosis. Improved communication between primary and tertiary healthcare providers could enhance the medical care of cancer survivors with complex health needs and thereby also reduce healthcare costs.

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Kan Wu, Xu Liu, Zhihong Liu, Yiping Lu, Xianding Wang, and Xiang Li

Background: Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is an aggressive cancer with high recurrence rates and poor prognosis, even after radical surgery. The survival benefit of adjuvant radiotherapy (RT) in patients with ACC has not been well explored. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of adjuvant RT on the survival outcome of patients with ACC. Patients and Methods: All patients with nonmetastatic ACC who underwent complete resection were identified from the SEER database (2004–2016). Overall survival (OS) was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Multivariable Cox regression analysis was performed to identify prognostic factors associated with survival. Results: Of 365 patients with nonmetastatic ACC, 55 (15.1%) received adjuvant RT and the remainder underwent surgery alone. Patient characteristics were similar between the 2 groups, but those with a higher disease stage were more likely to receive adjuvant RT. Overall, patients receiving RT seemed to have better survival compared with the non-RT group (3-year OS rate, 63.1% vs 52.8%; P<.062). After adjustment for confounding factors, adjuvant RT was indeed associated with a 48% decreased risk of death (hazard ratio, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.29–0.91; P=.023) for all patients. In addition, adjuvant RT may confer a survival benefit only in patients with a high risk of recurrence (3-year OS rate, 55.1% vs 40.0%; P=.048) rather than in those with low/moderate-risk ACC (P=.559). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that adjuvant RT may be associated with improved survival in patients with nonmetastatic ACC who underwent radical surgery, especially those with high risk of recurrence.

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Steven M. Blum, William R. Jeck, Lindsay Kipnis, Ronald Bleday, Jonathan A. Nowak, and Matthew B. Yurgelun

Two major molecular pathways of colorectal carcinogenesis, chromosomal instability (CIN) and microsatellite instability (MSI), are considered to be mutually exclusive. Distinguishing CIN from MSI-high tumors has considerable therapeutic implications, because patients with MSI-high tumors can derive considerable benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitors, and tumors that evolved through the CIN pathway do not respond to these agents. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a genetic syndrome that is defined by a mutation in the APC gene and is thought to lead to carcinogenesis through the CIN pathway. Here, we report a case of a young woman with FAP who was treated for medulloblastoma as a child and developed advanced MSI-high colon cancer as a young adult. Her response to second-line immunotherapy enabled resection of her colon cancer, and she is free of disease >10 months after surgery. This case highlights the potential for overlap between the CIN and MSI carcinogenic pathways and associated therapeutic implications.

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Subha Perni, Danielle Bitterman, Jennifer Ryan, Julie K. Silver, Eileen Mitchell, Sarah Christensen, Megan Daniels, Mara Bloom, Ephraim Hochberg, David Ryan, Daphne Haas-Kogan, Jay S. Loeffler, Nancy J. Tarbell, Aparna R. Parikh, and Jennifer Wo

Background: Philanthropic donations are important funding sources in academic oncology but may be vulnerable to implicit or explicit biases toward women. However, the influence of gender on donations has not been assessed quantitatively. Methods: We queried a large academic cancer center’s development database for donations over 10 years to the sundry funds of medical and radiation oncologists. Types of donations and total amounts for medical oncologists and radiation oncologists hired prior to April 1, 2018 (allowing ≥2 years on faculty prior to query), were obtained. We also obtained publicly available data on physician/academic rank, gender, specialty, disease site, and Hirsch-index (h-index), a metric of productivity. Results: We identified 127 physicians: 64% men and 36% women. Median h-index was higher for men (31; range, 1–100) than women (17; range, 3–77; P=.003). Men were also more likely to have spent more time at the institution (median, 15 years; range, 2–43 years) than women (median, 12.5 years; range, 3–22 years; P=.025). Those receiving donations were significantly more likely to be men (70% vs 30%; P=.034). Men received significantly higher median amounts ($259,474; range, $0–$29,507,784) versus women ($37,485; range, $0–$7,483,726; P=.019). On multivariable analysis, only h-index and senior academic rank were associated with donation receipt, and only h-index with donation amount. Conclusions: We found significant gender disparities in receipt of philanthropic donations on unadjusted analyses. However, on multivariable analyses, only productivity and rank were significantly associated with donations, suggesting gender disparities in productivity and promotions may contribute to these differences.

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Luke D. Rothermel, Claire C. Conley, Anuja L. Sarode, Michael F. Young, Zulema L. Uscanga, McKenzie McIntyre, Jason B. Fleming, and Susan T. Vadaparampil

Background: Low health literacy is associated with increased resource use and poorer outcomes in medical and surgical patients with various diseases. This observational study was designed to determine (1) the prevalence of low health literacy among surgical patients with cancer at an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC), and (2) associations between health literacy and clinical outcomes. Methods: Patients receiving surgery (N=218) for gastrointestinal (60%) or genitourinary cancers (22%) or sarcomas (18%) were recruited during their postsurgical hospitalization. Patients self-reported health literacy using the Brief Health Literacy Screening Tool (BRIEF). Clinical data (length of stay [LoS], postacute care needs, and unplanned presentation for care within 30 days) were abstracted from the electronic medical records 90 days after surgery. Multivariate linear and logistic regressions were used to examine the relationship between health literacy and clinical outcomes, adjusting for potential confounding variables. Results: Of 218 participants, 31 (14%) showed low health literacy (BRIEF score ≤12). In regression analyses including 212 patients with complete data, low health literacy significantly predicted LoS (β = −1.82; 95% CI, −3.00 to −0.66; P=.002) and postacute care needs (odds ratio [OR], 0.25; 95% CI, 0.07–0.91). However, health literacy was not significantly associated with unplanned presentation for care in the 30 days after surgery (OR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.20–1.29). Conclusions: This study demonstrates the prevalence of low health literacy in a surgical cancer population at a high-volume NCI-designated CCC and its association with important clinical outcomes, including hospital LoS and postacute care needs. Universal screening and patient navigation may be 2 approaches to mitigate the impact of low health literacy on postsurgical outcomes.