A number of studies and a growing body of evidence indicates that high hospital and surgeon volume can be associated with improved outcomes for a number of surgical diseases. Research involving the Institute of Medicine and a number of large, national databases including SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) Cancer Program, National Inpatient Sample  and others [4,5] indicate associations between hospital volume and outcome for a variety of cardiovascular and oncologic surgeries. While not specifically focused on urologic oncology, these studies demonstrate modest but significant improvements in mortality for radical cystectomy and nephrectomy.[3,5]
In the urologic literature, significant improvements have been demonstrated for the treatment of prostate,[6-11] bladder,[3,5,12-16] and kidney cancer[3,17-18] at high-volume centers and by high-volume surgeons. There is less, well-established literature in the treatment of testicular cancer (TC) and this blog will focus on the relationship between hospital volume and outcomes for TC.
A study of the Irish Testicular Tumor Registry (1980-1985) evaluated 246 patients over 41 hospitals. Inferior survival outcomes were associated with patients who received incomplete orchiectomy, were not staged by tumor markers, did not receive appropriate chemotherapy, had less frequent imaging or marker surveillance and did not have a urologist and/or oncologist involved in their care. In an early study from the SWENOTECA (Swedish Norweigan Testicular Cancer) Project (1981-1986), high-volume cancer centers were associated with improved care – especially in patients with large volume, advanced disease. Of 440 men treated in Scotland, 87% of 235 men treated at the highest volume center were alive at 5 years. Of the 194 treated at other, smaller centers, only 73% were alive at 5 years – much of this difference was attributed to various treatment protocols independent of other prognostic variables.
In the United States, 172 men with advanced testicular cancer in the national, SEER database were matched to 133 men from MSKCC (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) in New York (1978-1984). Survival rates were higher at MSKCC despite similar treatment regimens. The benefit at MSKCC was highest in men with minimal to moderate disease and therefore attributed to the combination of surgery and chemotherapy at this tertiary care center. This relationship was validated in 380 patients with metastatic TC enrolled in an EORTC (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer) Trial. The trial was conducted over 49 sites, and patients treated at the 26 sites with the fewest patients (five or fewer) had inferior survival outcomes.
More recent studies from Japan have investigated the volume-outcome relationship, demonstrating increasing volume of treatment to be associated with improved survival. However the rates did not achieve the survival rates demonstrated in western countries like the US or countries of Europe. Based on these data, efforts have been made to centralize TC care in a risk-adapted algorithm – as severity of disease increases, patients are referred to more centralized, specialized referral centers. One study evaluating this "centralization" demonstrated markedly improved and excellent survival in patients receiving induction chemotherapy, with the majority of patients receiving care at one, large center.
While much of the data regarding hospital volume and outcome for TC patients is dated, the argument for centralization of care is poignant. As outcomes for a variety of urologic malignancies including prostate, bladder and kidney cancer are established to be improved in high-volume centers, it is rational that TC care could also be better served by centralized care – TC is a rare disease that often requires multi-disciplinary care and a thorough understanding of management options and outcomes (especially for men with advanced disease). A risk-adapted centralization, where following a diagnosis of TC patients are referred to an increasingly experienced center for the stage of their disease, may help improve outcomes for patients. For instance, a man with early stage disease who is a candidate for active surveillance can be followed by his local urologic oncologist, and the man with high-volume metastatic disease should be referred to a large, tertiary care center with extensive experience treating men in the region. In addition, while this blog does not discuss the costs associated with the treatment of advanced TC, centralization may provide improved population-based outcomes in a cost-effective manner and this is a disease where reimbursements may reinforce quality care.
This blog was written by Phillip M. Pierorazio, MD, Assistant Professor of Urology and Oncology and Director of the Division of Testicular Cancer.
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