Our goal was to investigate utilization trends for advanced radiation therapy (RT) technologies, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), in the last year of life among patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer.


We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked databases to analyze claims data in the last 12 months of life for 64,525 patients diagnosed with metastatic breast, colorectal, lung, pancreas, and prostate cancers from 2000 to 2007. Logistic regression modeling was conducted to analyze potential demographic, health services, and treatment-related variables' influences on receipt of advanced RT.


Among the 19,161 (29.7%) patients who received radiation therapy, there was a significant decrease in the proportion of patients who received the simplest radiation technique (ie, 2D-radiation therapy) (P < .0001), and significant increases in the proportions of patients receiving more advanced radiation techniques (ie, IMRT, and SRS; P < .0001 for all curves); although the rates for use of IMRT and SRS in 2007 remained under 5%. On multivariate analyses, receipt of RT varied significantly by non-clinical characteristics such as race, marital status, neighborhood income, and SEER region. Patients who received hospice care in the last year of life were more likely to receive radiation therapy (OR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.30-1.40) but less likely to be treated with IMRT (OR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.62-0.92).


Although the proportion of patients receiving RT in the last year of life for metastatic cancer did not change for most of the past decade, we observed significant trends toward more advanced radiation techniques. Cancer 2013. © 2012 American Cancer Society.