OBJECTIVE: Patients who have incidentally detected pulmonary nodules and an estimated intermediate risk (5-60%) of lung cancer frequently are followed via computed tomography (CT) surveillance to detect nodule growth, despite guidelines for a more aggressive diagnostic strategy. We examined the cost-effectiveness of an autoantibody test (AABT)-Early Cancer Detection Test-Lung (EarlyCDT-LungTM)-as an aid to early diagnosis of lung cancer among such patients.
METHODS: We developed a decision-analytic model to evaluate use of the AABT versus CT surveillance alone. In the model, patients with a positive AABT-because they are at substantially enhanced risk of lung cancer-are assumed to go directly to biopsy, resulting in diagnosis of lung cancer in earlier stages than under current guidelines (a beneficial stage shift). Patients with a negative AABT, and those scheduled for CT surveillance alone, are assumed to have periodic CT screenings to detect rapid growth and thus to have their lung cancers diagnosed-on average-at more advanced stages.
RESULTS: Among 1,000 patients who have incidentally detected nodules 8-30 mm, have an intermediate-risk of lung cancer, and are evaluated by CT surveillance alone, 95 (9.5%) are assumed to have lung cancer (local, 73.6%; regional, 22.0%; distant, 4.4%). With use of the AABT set at a sensitivity/specificity of 41%/93% (stage shift = 10.8%), although expected costs would be higher by $949,442 ($949 per person), life years would be higher by 53 (0.05 per person), resulting in a cost per life-year gained of $18,029 and a cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained of $24,330. With use of the AABT set at a sensitivity/specificity of 28%/98% (stage shift = 7.4%), corresponding cost-effectiveness ratios would be $18,454 and $24,833.
CONCLUSIONS: Under our base-case assumptions, and reasonable variations thereof, using AABT as an aid in the early diagnosis of lung cancer in patients with incidentally detected pulmonary nodules who are estimated to be at intermediate risk of lung cancer and are scheduled for CT surveillance alone is likely to be a cost-effective use of healthcare resources.