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Original Investigation
November 25, 2020

Regional Adoption of Commercial Gene Expression Testing for Prostate Cancer

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Urology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Yale Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research Center, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 3Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 4Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 5Department of Internal Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(1):52-58. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.6086
Key Points

Question  How have new prognostic gene expression (genomic) tests for prostate cancer been adopted in the US?

Findings  This dynamic cohort study of commercially insured patients with prostate cancer found that although adoption of genomic testing was highly variable, there were distinct regional trajectories of adoption. Rapid regional adoption of genomic testing was associated with higher contextual measures of income, education, and prostate cancer services.

Meaning  Among a cohort of patients with prostate cancer, regional variation in the use of new prognostic genomic tests for prostate cancer was associated with underlying differences in resources and prostate cancer services.


Importance  Although tissue-based genomic tests can aid in treatment decision-making for patients with prostate cancer, little is known about their clinical adoption.

Objective  To evaluate regional adoption of genomic testing for prostate cancer and understand common trajectories of uptake shared by regions.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This dynamic cohort study of patients diagnosed with prostate cancer used administrative claims from Blue Cross Blue Shield Axis, the largest source of commercial health insurance in the US, to characterize temporal trends in the use of commercial, tissue-based genomic testing and calculate the proportion of tested patients at the hospital referral region (HRR) level. Eligible patients from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2018, were those aged 40 to 89 years with prostate cancer diagnosed from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2018.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Group-based trajectory modeling was used to classify regions according to discrete trajectories of adoption of commercial, tissue-based genomic testing for prostate cancer. Across regions with distinct trajectories, HRR-level sociodemographic and health care contextual characteristics were compared, using data previously calculated among Medicare beneficiaries.

Results  A total of 92 418 men with prostate cancer who met inclusion criteria were identified; the median (interquartile range) age at diagnosis was 60 (56-63) years. Overall, the proportion of patients who received genomic testing increased from 0.8% in July 2012 to June 2013 to 11.3% in July 2017 to June 2018. Trajectory modeling identified 5 distinct regional trajectories of genomic testing adoption. Although less than 1% of patients in each group were tested at baseline, group 1 (lowest adoption) increased to 4.0%. Groups 2 (7.8%), 3 (14.6%), and 4 (17.3%) experienced more modest growth, while in group 5 (highest adoption), use increased to 33.8% of patients tested from June 2017 to July 2018. Compared with regions that more slowly adopted testing, HRRs with the highest rate of adoption (group 5) had higher HRR-level education measures (percentage [SD] with college education: group 1, 25.6% [4.8%]; vs group 2, 27.5% [7.3%]; vs group 3, 30.3% [9.1%]; vs group 4, 29.8% [8.2%]; vs group 5, 30.4% [11.4%]; P for trend = .03), median (SD) household income (group 1, $50 412.8 [$6907.4]; vs group 2, $54 419.6 [$11 324.5]; vs group 3, $61 424.0 [$17 723.8]; vs group 4, $58 508.3 [$15 174.6]; vs group 5, $58 367.0 [$13 180.5]; P for trend = .005), and prostate cancer resources, including clinician density (No. [SD] of clinicians per 100 000: group 1, 2.5 [0.3]; vs group 2, 2.5 [0.5]; vs group 3, 2.6 [0.5]; vs group 4, 2.7 [0.7]; vs group 5, 2.6 [0.5]; P for trend = .04) and prostate cancer screening (percentage [SD] of prostate-specific antigen testing among patients aged 68-74 y: group 1, 29.4% [11.8%]; vs group 2, 32.4% [11.2%]; vs group 3, 33.1% [12.7%]; vs group 4, 36.1% [9.7%]; vs group 5, 28.8% [11.8%]; P for trend = .05).

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cohort study of patients with prostate cancer, the adoption of commercial tissue-based genomic testing for prostate cancer was highly variable in the US at the regional level and may be associated with contextual measures related to socioeconomic status and patterns of prostate cancer care. These findings highlight factors underlying differential adoption of prognostic technologies for patients with cancer.

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