Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Centralizing Care for Testicular Cancer

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[1] and a number of large, national databases including SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) Cancer Program,[2] National Inpatient Sample [3] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]

More recent studies from Japan have investigated the volume-outcome relationship, demonstrating increasing volume of treatment to be associated with improved survival.[24] 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.[25]

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.


  1. E.A. Halm, C. Lee, M.R. Chassin. Is volume related to outcome in health care? A systematic review and methodologic critique of the literature. Ann Intern Med, 137 (2002), p. 511
  2. C.B. Begg, L.D. Cramer, W.J. Hoskins, M.F. Brennan. Impact of hospital volume on operative mortality for major cancer surgery. JAMA, 280 (1998), p. 1747
  3. J.D. Birkmeyer, A.E. Siewers, E.V. Finlayson, T.A. Stukel, F.L. Lucas, I. Batista,et al. Hospital volume and surgical mortality in the United States. N Engl J Med, 346 (2002), p. 1128
  4. R.A. Dudley, K.L. Johansen, R. Brand, D.J. Rennie, A. Milstein. Selective referral to high-volume hospitals: estimating potentially avoidable deaths. JAMA, 283 (2000), p. 1159
  5. J.D. Birkmeyer, T.A. Stukel, A.E. Siewers, P.P. Goodney, D.E. Wennberg, F.L. Lucas. Surgeon volume and operative mortality in the United States. N Engl J Med, 349 (2003), p. 2117
  6. F.J. Bianco Jr, P.T. Scardino, M.W. Kattan, A.C. Rhee, J.A. Eastham. Surgeon volume is predictor of improved outcomes in radical prostatectomy patients. J Urol, 171 (suppl.) (2004), p. 211 abstract 796
  7. C.B. Begg, E.R. Riedel, P.B. Bach, M.W. Kattan, D. Schrag, J.L. Warren, et al. Variations in morbidity after radical prostatectomy. N Engl J Med, 346 (2002), p. 1138
  8. J.A. Eastham, M.W. Kattan, E. Riedel, C.B. Begg, T.M. Wheeler, C. Gerigk, et al. Variations among individual surgeons in the rate of positive surgical margins in radical prostatectomy specimens. J Urol, 170 (2003), p. 2292
  9. L.M. Ellison, J.A. Heaney, J.D. Birkmeyer. The effect of hospital volume on mortality and resource use after radical prostatectomy. J Urol, 163 (2000), p. 867
  10. J.C. Hu, K.F. Gold, C.L. Pashos, S.S. Mehta, M.S. Litwin. Role of surgeon volume in radical prostatectomy outcomes. J Clin Oncol, 21 (2003), p. 401
  11. S.L. Yao, G. Lu-Yao. Population-based study of relationships between hospital volume of prostatectomies, patient outcomes, and length of hospital stay. J Natl Cancer Inst, 91 (1999), p. 1950
  12. L.S. Elting, C.A. Pettaway, H.B. Grossman, B.N. Bekele, K.R. Saldin, C.P.N. Dinney. Relationship between postoperative in-hospital mortality and annual hospital volume of cystectomies: the effect of centres of experience. J Urol, 169 (suppl.) (2003), p. 336 abstract 1301
  13. H.W. Herr, J.R. Faulkner, H.B. Grossman, R.B. Natale, R. DeVere White, M.F. Sarosdy, et al. Surgical factors influence bladder cancer outcomes: a cooperative group report. J Clin Oncol, 22 (2004), p. 2781
  14. H.W. Herr, J.A. Smith, J.E. Montie. Standardization of radical cystectomy: time to count and be counted. BJU Int, 94 (2004), p. 481
  15. B.R. Konety, V. Dhawan, V. Allareddy, S.A. Josyln. Impact of hospital and surgeon volume on in-hospital mortality from radical cystectomy: data from the Health Care Utilization Project. J Urol, 173 (2005), p. 1695
  16. B.R. Konety, V. Dhawan, V. Allareddy, M.A. O'Donnell. Association between volume and charges for most frequently performed ambulatory and nonambulatory surgery for bladder cancer is more cheaper? J Urol, 172 (2004), p. 1056
  17. E.V. Finlayson, P.P. Goodney, J.D. Birkmeyer. Hospital volume and operative mortality in cancer surgery: a national study. Arch Surg, 138 (2003), p. 721
  18. D.A. Taub, D.C. Miller, J.A. Cowan, J.B. Dimick, J.E. Montie, J.T. Wei. Impact of surgical volume on mortality and length of stay after nephrectomy. Urology, 63 (2004), p. 862
  19. J.A. Thornhill, A. Walsh, R.M. Conroy, J.J. Fennelly, D.G. Kelly, J.M. Fitzpatrick. Physician-dependent prognostic variables in the management of testicular cancer. Br J Urol, 61 (1988), p. 244
  20. N. Aass, O. Klepp, E. Cavallin-Stahl, O. Dahl, H. Wicklund, B. Unsgaard, et al. Prognostic factors in unselected patients with nonseminomatous metastatic testicular cancer: a multicenter experience. J Clin Oncol, 9 (1991), p. 818
  21. M.J. Harding, J. Paul, C.R. Gillis, S.B. Kaye. Management of malignant teratoma: does referral to a specialist unit matter? Lancet, 341 (1993), p. 999
  22. E.J. Feuer, C.M. Frey, O.W. Brawley, S.G. Nayfield, J.B. Cunningham, N.L. Geller, et al. After a treatment breakthrough: a comparison of trial and population-based data for advanced testicular cancer. J Clin Oncol, 12 (1994), p. 368
  23. L. Collette, R.J. Sylvester, S.P. Stenning, S.D. Fossa, G.M. Mead, R. de Wit, et al. Impact of the treating institution on survival of patients with "poor-prognosis" metastatic nonseminoma. European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Genito-Urinary Tract Cancer Collaborative Group and the Medical Research Council Testicular Cancer Working Party. J Natl Cancer Inst, 91 (1999), p. 839
  24. Suzumura S, Ioka A, Nakayama T, Tsukuma H, Oshima A, Ishikawa O. Hospital procedure volume and prognosis with respect to testicular cancer patients: a population-based study in Osaka, Japan. Cancer Sci. 2008 Nov;99(11):2260-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2008.00920.x.
  25. Inai H, Kawai K, Kojima T, Joraku A, Shimazui T, Yamauchi A, Miyagawa T, Endo T, Fukuhara Y, Miyazaki J, Uchida K, Nishiyama H. Oncological outcomes of metastatic testicular cancers under centralized management through regional medical network. Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2013 Dec;43(12):1249-54. doi: 10.1093/jjco/hyt152. Epub 2013 Oct 6.


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  6. Evidence that high volume hospitals have better outcomes is increasing for urological cancer surgeries. Whether volume affects quality or better clinicians and services attract more patients can be debated. cancer care center