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Analysis of HER2 Testing in Breast Cancer: Disparities, Cost-effectiveness, and Patterns of Care

HER2 breast cancer is an aggressive disease that occurs in 20 - 30% of the breast cancer population. Treatment for HER2 breast cancer includes use of an anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab. Testing for HER2 is of critical importance due to the adverse side effects and substantial costs associated with this anti-HER2 treatment. Currently, two kinds of tests, Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) and Immunohistochemistry (IHC), are FDA approved for determination of HER2 status in breast cancers. Clinical and non clinical factors that affect the choice HER2 test and the use of anti-HER2 therapy in breast cancer were analyzed using a data set containing information from six outpatient oncology clinics in the United States. The analysis showed that geographic location, cancer stage, and diagnosis date (pre- or post-publication of testing guidelines) have significant effects on choice of test. With regard to trastuzumab prescription, geographic location and HER2 status have significant effects on the prescription of trastuzumab. In addition, there was a non-significant trend for certain Medicare patients not to receive trastuzumab therapy. These findings indicate that disparities are present in breast cancer care based on geography and cancer stage, and highlight the importance of testing guidelines. The cost effectiveness of FISH vs. IHC was determined, by considering the financial and health-related costs associated with testing and subsequent treatment as well as the accuracy of each test. The results show that FISH is the optimal choice for HER2 testing and is more cost-effective than IHC.

Principal Investigator: Mahima Ashok, Ph.D.

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