Importance: The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database may provide insights into the comparative effectiveness of oncological treatments for elderly individuals who are underrepresented in clinical trials. Objective: To evaluate the suitability of SEER-Medicare data for assessing the effectiveness of adding a drug to an existing treatment regimen on the overall survival of elderly patients with cancer. Design, Setting, and Participants: This comparative effectiveness study analyzed SEER-Medicare data from 9549 individuals who received a new diagnosis of stage II colorectal cancer (2008-2012) and 940 patients who received a new diagnosis of advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma (2007-2012), with follow-up to December 31, 2013 (SEER-Medicare data released in 2015). Two (hypothetical) target trials were designed and emulated based on 2 existing randomized clinical trials: (1) adjuvant fluorouracil after curative surgery for individuals with stage II colorectal cancer and (2) erlotinib added to gemcitabine for individuals with advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Data were analyzed January 2018 to March 2019. Exposures: The following treatment strategies were compared: (1) fluorouracil initiation vs no initiation within 3 months of tumor resection and (2) erlotinib initiation vs no initiation within 12 weeks of gemcitabine initiation. Main Outcomes and Measures: All-cause mortality within 60 months of baseline for the fluorouracil trial and within 72 weeks for the erlotinib trial. Results: Compared with 3293 individuals in the existing fluorouracil trial, 9549 eligible individuals included in the present analyses were more likely to have colon cancer (8565 [90%] vs 2291 [71%]) and were older (median [interquartile range], 79 [73-84] vs 63 [56-68] years). The 5-year risk difference for initiation vs noninitiation of fluorouracil after surgery was -3.8% (95% CI, -14.8% to 12.6%), and the mortality hazard ratio (HR) was 0.95 (95% CI, 0.85-1.04). Compared with 569 individuals in the existing erlotinib trial, 940 eligible patients included in the present analysis were older (median [range], 74 [66-93] vs 64 [36-92] years) and more likely to be male (547 [58%] vs 298 [52%]). The 1-year risk difference for initiation vs noninitiation of erlotinib was 4.7% (95% CI, -9.4% to 18.0%), and the corresponding mortality HR was 1.04 (95% CI, 0.86-1.42). In naive analyses, the mortality HR estimate was 1.14 (95% CI, 0.95-1.36) for the fluorouracil emulation and 0.68 (95% CI, 0.54-0.87) for the erlotinib emulation. Conclusions and Relevance: The present estimates were similar to those from randomized clinical trials that studied adding the same cancer drugs to existing regimens. The published HR was 1.02 (95% CI, 0.70-1.48) in the fluorouracil trial for individuals aged 70 or older and 0.96 (95% CI, 0.74-1.24) in the erlotinib trial for individuals aged 65 years or older. The SEER-Medicare database may be adequate for studying the real-world effectiveness of adding a drug to treatment regimens used for elderly individuals with cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas