Cost-effectiveness of Molecular Profile Patient Selection for First-line Treatment of Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer



      Patients with recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck squamous cell cancer are offered platinum-based chemotherapy plus cetuximab; however, this strategy is not cost-effective. We evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a hypothetical predictive molecular test to identify and treat only patients potentially responsive to cetuximab (C) added to platinum-fluorouracil (PF) (PF + C POS) versus the administration of PF + C to all patients (PF + C ALL).


      A Markov model has been developed to estimate health outcomes (quality-adjusted life years [QALYs]; life years [LYs]) and costs of the 2 strategies on a time horizon of 3 years from the Italian health care perspective. For the response to treatment, a definition, including partial or complete response, has been applied. In the base-case scenario, molecular test sensitivity, specificity, and cost have been assumed equal to 85%, 70%, and €4000, respectively.


      The model estimated 0.5285 QALYs (0.9245 LYs) and 0.5666 QALYs (0.9949 LYs) for PF + C POS and PF + C ALL, respectively. The incremental cost-utility ratio of PF + C ALL versus PF + C POS was €112,462/QALY, suggesting the administration of PF + C only to patients who would be responsive to it.


      The use of cetuximab with chemotherapy could be a cost-effective choice in first-line recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck squamous cell cancer if based on a molecular selection able to identify which patients will achieve partial or complete response to the treatment. The developed model may be usefully applied to new emerging treatments, such as immunotherapeutic agents in the same setting.


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