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Original Investigation
August 20, 2020

Comparison of Survival After Transoral Robotic Surgery vs Nonrobotic Surgery in Patients With Early-Stage Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
  • 2Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
  • 3Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
  • 4Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
  • 5Department of Medical Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(10):1555-1562. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.3172
Key Points

Question  What are the long-term oncologic outcomes for patients undergoing transoral robotic surgery compared with those undergoing nonrobotic surgery for early-stage oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)?

Findings  This comparative effectiveness cohort study including 9745 patients with clinical stage T1 or T2 oropharyngeal SCC found that, from 2010 to 2015, the use of transoral robotic surgery increased from 18% to 36% of all surgical procedures for oropharyngeal cancer. Robotic surgery was associated with lower rates of margin positivity, less use of adjuvant chemoradiotherapy, and improved long-term overall survival compared with nonrobotic surgery, even after adjusting for patient- and tumor-related factors.

Meaning  Transoral robotic surgery was associated with improved outcomes, including long-term survival, for patients with early-stage oropharyngeal SCC and should be evaluated in prospective trials.

Abstract

Importance  Transoral robotic surgery has been widely adopted since approval by the US Food and Drug Administration in December 2009, despite limited comparative data.

Objective  To compare the long-term outcomes of transoral robotic surgery with those of nonrobotic surgery for patients with early-stage oropharyngeal cancer.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective cohort comparative effectiveness analysis was performed of patients in the National Cancer Database with clinical T1 and T2 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma diagnosed between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2015, who underwent definitive robotic and nonrobotic surgery. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression analysis and propensity score matching were performed in patients with known human papillomavirus status to adjust for patient- and disease-related covariates. Survival after robotic and nonrobotic surgery was also compared in 3 unrelated cancers: prostate, endometrial, and cervical cancer. Statistical analysis was performed from April 10, 2019, to May 21, 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Overall survival.

Results  Of 9745 patients (7652 men [78.5%]; mean [SD] age, 58.8 [9.6] years) who met inclusion criteria, 2694 (27.6%) underwent transoral robotic surgery. There was a significant increase in the use of robotic surgery from 18.3% (240 of 1309) to 35.5% (654 of 1841) of all surgical procedures for T1 and T2 oropharyngeal cancers from 2010 to 2015 (P = .003). Robotic surgery was associated with lower rates of positive surgical margins (12.5% [218 of 1746] vs 20.3% [471 of 2325]; P < .001) and lower use of adjuvant chemoradiotherapy (28.6% [500 of 1746] vs 35.7% [831 of 2325]; P < .001). Among 4071 patients with known human papillomavirus status, robotic surgery was associated with improved overall survival compared with nonrobotic surgery in multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression (hazard ratio [HR], 0.74; 95 CI, 0.61-0.90; P = .002). Similar results were seen when analyzing only the subset of facilities offering both robotic and nonrobotic surgery. The 5-year overall survival was 84.8% vs 80.3% among patients undergoing robotic vs nonrobotic surgery in propensity score–matched cohorts (P = .001). By contrast, there was no evidence that robotic surgery was associated with improved survival in other cancers, such as prostate cancer (HR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.79-1.07; P = .26), endometrial cancer (HR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.90-1.04; P = .36), and cervical cancer (HR, 1.27; 95% CI, 0.96-1.69; P = .10).

Conclusions and Relevance  This study suggests that transoral robotic surgery was associated with improved surgical outcomes and survival compared with nonrobotic surgery in patients with early-stage oropharyngeal cancer. Evaluation in comparative randomized trials is warranted.

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