When to wait for more evidence?: real options analysis in proton therapy.

J.P.C. Grutters*, K.R. Abrams, M.C.G. Pijls-Johannesma, D. de Ruysscher, H.J.M. Peters, E.A. Beutner, P. Lambin, M.A. Joore

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose. Trends suggest that cancer spending growth will accelerate. One method for controlling costs is to examine whether the benefits of new technologies are worth the extra costs. However, especially new and emerging technologies are often more costly, while limited clinical evidence of superiority is available. In that situation it is often unclear whether to adopt the new technology now, with the risk of investing in a suboptimal therapy, or to wait for more evidence, with the risk of withholding patients their optimal treatment. This trade-off is especially difficult when it is costly to reverse the decision to adopt a technology, as is the case for proton therapy. Real options analysis, a technique originating from financial economics, assists in making this trade-off. Methods. We examined whether to adopt proton therapy, as compared to stereotactic body radiotherapy, in the treatment of inoperable stage I non-small cell lung cancer. Three options are available: adopt without further research; adopt and undertake a trial; or delay adoption and undertake a trial. The decision depends on the expected net gain of each option, calculated by subtracting its total costs from its expected benefits. Results. In The Netherlands, adopt and trial was found to be the preferred option, with an optimal sample size of 200 patients. Increase of treatment costs abroad and costs of reversal altered the preferred option. Conclusion. We have shown that real options analysis provides a transparent method of weighing the costs and benefits of adopting and/or further researching new and expensive technologies. The Oncologist 2011;16:1752-1761
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1752-1761
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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