Survivors of childhood cancer treated with anthracyclines and/or chest-directed radiation are at increased risk for heart failure (HF). The International Late Effects of Childhood Cancer Guideline Harmonization Group (IGHG) recommends risk-based screening echocardiograms, but evidence supporting its frequency and cost-effectiveness is limited.

Using the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and St Jude Lifetime Cohort, we developed a microsimulation model of the clinical course of HF. We estimated long-term health outcomes and economic impact of screening according to IGHG-defined risk groups (low [doxorubicin-equivalent anthracycline dose of 1-99 mg/m2 and/or radiotherapy < 15 Gy], moderate [100 to < 250 mg/m2 or 15 to < 35 Gy], or high [≥ 250 mg/m2 or ≥ 35 Gy or both ≥ 100 mg/m2 and ≥ 15 Gy]). We compared 1-, 2-, 5-, and 10-year interval-based screening with no screening. Screening performance and treatment effectiveness were estimated based on published studies. Costs and quality-of-life weights were based on national averages and published reports. Outcomes included lifetime HF risk, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), lifetime costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). Strategies with ICERs < $100,000 per QALY gained were considered cost-effective.

Among the IGHG risk groups, cumulative lifetime risks of HF without screening were 36.7% (high risk), 24.7% (moderate risk), and 16.9% (low risk). Routine screening reduced this risk by 4% to 11%, depending on frequency. Screening every 2, 5, and 10 years was cost-effective for high-risk survivors, and every 5 and 10 years for moderate-risk survivors. In contrast, ICERs were > $175,000 per QALY gained for all strategies for low-risk survivors, representing approximately 40% of those for whom screening is currently recommended.

Our findings suggest that refinement of recommended screening strategies for IGHG high- and low-risk survivors is needed, including careful reconsideration of discontinuing asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction and HF screening in low-risk survivors.

Survivors of childhood cancer treated with anthracycline chemotherapy or chest-directed radiotherapy (RT) are at an increased risk of developing cardiomyopathy,1-3 which is well recognized to have a period of asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction (ALVD) that precedes overt heart failure (HF).4 Numerous guidelines have been developed to facilitate early detection and treatment of ALVD,5 yet they differ regarding definitions of risk groups and recommended surveillance modalities and frequency, hindering effective implementation. To address this, the International Late Effects of Childhood Cancer Guideline Harmonization Group (IGHG) reviewed and graded existing evidence and formulated recommendations for cardiomyopathy risk stratification, screening, and follow-up.6 Classification of survivors as having low, moderate, or high risk of cardiomyopathy was based on cumulative anthracycline and chest RT exposure and was supported by moderate- to high-quality evidence. Limited data were available to inform screening frequency or duration; therefore, harmonized strategies were largely consensus based.


  • Key Objectives

  • The International Late Effects of Childhood Cancer Guideline Harmonization Group (IGHG) recommends routine echocardiography screening for survivors of childhood cancer at elevated risk for cardiomyopathy, yet the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of these recommendations are uncertain.

  • Knowledge Generated

  • Using data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and St Jude Lifetime Cohort, we developed a microsimulation model of the clinical course of heart failure and demonstrated that although currently recommended screening is cost-effective in moderate- and high-risk survivors given commonly cited cost-effectiveness thresholds, more frequent screening may be indicated for those in the high-risk group. Conversely, screening does not appear to be cost-effective in low-risk survivors.

  • Relevance

  • Our findings suggest that although IGHG-defined high-risk survivors may benefit from more frequent screening echocardiograms, discontinuation of screening should be considered for low-risk survivors.

Given the disease latency, large numbers needed to detect a significant effect, and the lack of clinical equipoise, trials evaluating effectiveness of different cardiomyopathy screening strategies are infeasible. Simulation models, however, can inform clinical surveillance strategies in such instances. Building on prior modeling work7,8 and leveraging newly available Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) and St Jude Lifetime Cohort (SJLIFE) data, we used a model-based approach to estimate the clinical benefits, costs, and cost-effectiveness of various screening strategies for IGHG-defined cardiomyopathy risk groups.


We developed a microsimulation model of the clinical course of HF among survivors of childhood cancer to estimate long-term health and economic outcomes associated with recommended IGHG screening. We used data from CCSS9 (n = 24,297) and SJLIFE10 (n = 3,010), 2 large, institutional review board–approved, and previously described survivorship cohorts that include participant demographics, cancer treatment–related exposures, and graded cardiac events, as previously described,9-11 to establish risk estimates for ALVD and HF (Data Supplement). The CCSS is a retrospectively assessed, prospectively followed cohort of 5-year survivors of childhood cancer assessed periodically for self-reported events,9 representative of US survivors.12 SJLIFE is unique in its ability to prospectively assess and validate the health status of long-term survivors of childhood cancer, facilitating diagnosis of asymptomatic conditions. The model was calibrated to SJLIFE data on asymptomatic and symptomatic disease to ensure modeled outcomes were consistent with observed data. Model parameters are listed in Table 1. For each IGHG risk group, no screening (baseline) and 1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year interval screening were evaluated. Screening was initiated at entry into study cohorts (5 years from cancer diagnosis) and continued through age 74 years. Outcomes included number of screens, HF risk at age 40 years, lifetime HF risk, life expectancy, quality-adjusted life expectancy, and lifetime costs. To illustrate the trade-offs between incremental harms and benefits of screening, we calculated the number of screens per HF case averted.


TABLE 1. Model Parameters Included in Microsimulation

To evaluate the relative performance of each strategy, we calculated incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs), defined as the additional cost of a strategy divided by additional clinical benefit, compared with the next least expensive strategy, and expressed as cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained. We discounted future costs and clinical consequences at 3% annually following established recommendations.13,14 We assumed that interventions with ICERs < $100,000 per QALY gained provided good value for resources invested and were considered cost-effective.15,16 The model was programmed in Java (v1.8.0; Oracle, Redwood City, CA), and statistical analyses were performed in R (v3.3.1).

Clinical Course of Left Ventricular Dysfunction

The lifetime risk of HF was based on data from the CCSS9 and the Framingham Heart Study.17,18 To reflect treatment-related risk, we fit a statistical model using CCSS data, which included age at cancer diagnosis, cumulative doxorubicin-equivalent anthracycline dose,19 and mean RT heart dose.20 Mean heart doses were estimated by reconstructing an individual’s treatment fields on age-scaled computational phantoms.20 Survivors faced additional age-related risk of developing HF (46% systolic) based on US general population estimates.21,22 Lifetime risk for HF beyond current CCSS follow-up was estimated by assuming that survivors continued to face an elevated treatment-related risk of HF for the remainder of their lifetime based on the relative risk of observed rates among survivors to the general population at age 45 years. To project HF risks for each IGHG risk group, we bootstrapped individual-level data on CCSS participants, which allowed us to maintain covariance between patient characteristics (eg, age at diagnosis) and treatment exposures (eg, cumulative anthracycline dose). To account for potential nonparticipation bias, we used inverse probability weights when calculating all modeled outcomes.23

The model was constructed to simulate the lifetime clinical course of HF (up to age 100 years) after childhood cancer (Fig 1). Survivors entered the model facing a monthly risk of ALVD. Survivors with ALVD faced risk for progression to HF, and those who developed HF were at risk for HF-related mortality, including additional monthly risks of dying from excess background and noncardiac late effect–related mortality. To infer risk of progression from untreated ALVD to HF, we used model calibration to ensure simulated outcomes were consistent with observed SJLIFE data for asymptomatic (grade 2) and symptomatic (grade 3 or 4) cardiomyopathy (Data Supplement).11,24

We made the following simplifying assumptions: risk of progression from ALVD to HF is constant across ages25; HF-specific mortality risk varies by age (< 30 v ≥ 30 years at HF diagnosis) and increases with time since HF diagnosis26; late mortality risks (including late cancer recurrence and non-HF late effects) for survivors diagnosed in 1980-1999 were equal to or lower than rates observed for those diagnosed in 1970-197927; and age-, sex-, and calendar-specific background mortality rates remained constant at 2014 rates in subsequent years.28

Screening Strategies

For each IGHG risk group, we evaluated a strategy of no screening (baseline) versus 1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year interval screening. We assumed general practitioners would direct routine screening, with subsequent referral for positive echocardiograms to cardiology for a confirmatory echocardiogram. We based 2-dimensional echocardiogram sensitivity and specificity (and interrater agreement between sequential echocardiograms) on published reports (Data Supplement).29 Patients with a positive confirmatory echocardiogram received treatment with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE-I) and β-blocker per guideline-based care and remained under a cardiologist’s care.30

Treatment Effectiveness

Approximate Bayesian computation was used to estimate a distribution of parameters for treatment effectiveness. Because no published studies inform treatment effectiveness in long-term survivors of childhood cancer, our estimates were based on the Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction (SOLVD) prevention trial.31 Specifically, for a cohort representative of the SOLVD data (1,594 people in the baseline arm and 513 in the intervention arm with ALVD without a history of childhood cancer; mean age, 58 years), we projected HF risk and all-cause mortality after 4 years by sampling probabilities of progression from ALVD to HF from the simulation model, incorporating age-specific background mortality rates for the study year. We assumed that treatment reduced ALVD progression to HF and mortality from cardiac causes among individuals with ALVD, and we varied model parameters accordingly until simulated outcomes were consistent with the SOLVD results (4-year baseline mortality rate, 0.22; all-cause mortality associated with treatment relative risk, 0.64; Data Supplement).31


Medical costs associated with routine cardiac assessment and follow-up care were based on 2017 Medicare reimbursement rates.32 Survivors with ALVD received guideline-based treatment (ACE-I [lisinopril 20 mg daily] and β-blocker [carvedilol 25 mg twice daily] and an annual physician visit and echocardiogram). Survivors with HF received guideline-based care (same pharmacotherapy as ALVD, a physician visit every 3 months, and echocardiography every 6 months). Drug prices were based on mean wholesale manufacturer acquisition costs.33 We assumed that a proportion of survivors with HF would require hospitalization34 and reflected this in the per-patient costs and that, once ALVD or HF was diagnosed, abnormal echocardiography results did not lead to subsequent diagnostic tests, procedures, or diagnoses that would incur additional costs. Indirect patient costs, such as lost work time, were based on the 2017 median hourly wage (Data Supplement).35

Quality of Life

To estimate QALYs, we incorporated age-, sex-, and condition-specific36 utility weights to reflect survivors’ quality of life.37 As a result of its asymptomatic nature, no additional decrement was applied for ALVD. We accounted for decrements in quality of life (disutility) associated with taking daily ALVD medication based on published estimates (Data Supplement).38

Uncertainty and Sensitivity Analyses

For all analyses, to account for first-order (stochastic) and second-order (parameter) uncertainty, we conducted 1,000 Monte Carlo simulations, bootstrapping the modeled cohort and sampling a parameter set (from the subset of good-fitting parameter sets on late mortality risks and accepted parameter sets on treatment effectiveness). To reflect the uncertainty in modeled outcomes, we report the mean and 95% uncertainty interval (UI; calculated as the 2.5 and 97.5 percentiles among simulated results) and include cost-effectiveness acceptability curves identifying the optimal strategy for a range of willingness-to-pay thresholds up to $150,000 per QALY gained. We conducted 1- and 2-way sensitivity analyses to understand how results varied across plausible ranges of key model parameters.

Reduction in HF Risk and Sequelae

Among a cohort representative of CCSS participants, the cumulative risks of HF at age 40 years were 9.9% (95% UI, 8.7% to 11.1%), 4.5% (95% UI, 2.5% to 6.6%), and 2.2% (95% UI, 0.8% to 3.8%) for the high-, moderate-, and low-risk subgroups, respectively. Lifetime cumulative risks were 36.7% (95% UI, 28.7% to 43.9%), 24.7% (95% UI, 17.3% to 33.5%), and 16.9% (95% UI, 11.2% to 23.8%) in the high-, moderate-, and low-risk groups, respectively (Table 2). Lifetime risk of HF decreased with more frequent screening across all groups, ranging from 4% for 10-year intervals to 11% for 1-year interval screening. Screening delayed the average age of HF onset by as much as 1.6-2.0 years with screening at 1-year intervals.


TABLE 2. Clinical and Economic Model Outcomes for 2-Dimensional Echocardiography Surveillance Strategies in Survivor of Cancer Cardiomyopathy Risk Groups Defined by the International Guideline Harmonization Group

Number of Screenings

The average number of lifetime per-person echocardiograms varied by risk group and surveillance strategy (Table 2). Screening high-risk survivors at 1-, 2-, 5-, and 10-year intervals averted 1 case of HF every 1,012, 667, 445, and 383 screening echocardiograms, respectively. Screening moderate-risk survivors at the same frequencies prevented 1 case per 1,660, 1,103, 745, and 654 screening echocardiograms, respectively. No strategy resulted in < 1,000 echocardiograms required to avert 1 case of HF in low-risk survivors (Fig 2).

Cost-Effectiveness of Screening Strategies

Table 2 lists the cost-effectiveness results. For high-risk survivors, the ICERs for 10-year ($34,604 per QALY gained), 5-year ($37,703 per QALY gained), and 2-year ($77,877 per QALY gained) interval strategies were all < $100,000 per QALY gained, with the 2-year strategy yielding the greatest gain in QALYs. Among the 1,000 simulations, screening every 2 years had the highest probability of being the preferred strategy (0.52) given a $100,000 per QALY threshold. In moderate-risk survivors, ICERs were < $100,000 for screening every 10 years ($79,312 per QALY gained) and 5 years ($94,575 per QALY gained), although the probability that each strategy was preferred was only 0.14 and 0.35, respectively. Conversely, for low-risk survivors, ICERs were > $175,000 per QALY gained for all strategies, and the probability that no screening was the preferred strategy was 0.70. Cost-effectiveness acceptability curves are show in the Data Supplement.

Sensitivity Analyses (Treatment Effectiveness, Test Performance, and Disutility of Daily Pharmacologic Intervention)

One-way sensitivity analyses identified preferred screening strategies across a range of model parameters (Fig 3). In high-risk survivors, results were largely unchanged, and 2-year screening remained preferred across most plausible ranges for costs, treatment disutility, lifetime HF-related mortality, and echocardiogram screening parameters. Similarly, no screening remained preferred for the low-risk subgroup across all reasonable values for the same parameters. The optimal strategy for moderate-risk survivors was uncertain, however, because results varied greatly depending on parameter estimates. For example, no screening was favored at higher costs or treatment disutility (Figs 3D and 3E; Data Supplement) and at lower treatment effectiveness and echocardiogram sensitivities and specificities (Figs 3A-3C; Data Supplement).

Using a model-based approach that leverages data from the CCSS and SJLIFE, we estimated that lifetime HF risk varied between 16.9% and 36.7% among IGHG risk-stratified survivors of childhood cancer exposed to anthracyclines or chest-directed RT. Screening high-risk survivors at 2-year intervals could potentially avert 8.4% of HF cases. Given the $100,000 per QALY gained benchmark for good value, this strategy appears to be cost-effective. In contrast, for low-risk survivors, routine screening may reduce HF risk, but because of their lower absolute HF risk, screening even every 10 years does not appear to be cost-effective, suggesting a need to reconsider current practices. These data provide much needed evidence to strengthen current IGHG consensus surveillance recommendations and evidence-based screening intervals (Table 3).


TABLE 3. Proposed Changes to Existing IGHG-Defined Cardiomyopathy Risk-Stratified Surveillance Recommendations6 Based on Model Output

To date, existing survivor guidelines have had limited ability to recommend evidence-based screening strategies for conditions in which disease latency precludes randomized trials necessary to inform decision making, consequently reflecting a hybrid of evidence-based risk stratification merged with expert opinion and consensus-based surveillance recommendations.6 Other guideline organizations, such as the US Preventive Services Task Force, have used simulation models to strengthen recommendations for adult-onset cancers.39,40 A key strength of simulation models is their ability to test the impact of various baseline model assumptions on screening effectiveness. In our study, we demonstrate that surveillance echocardiograms are not cost-effective in survivors exposed to low-risk doses of anthracyclines and chest-directed RT despite testing a wide range of model parameters. Given both the gap in existing literature regarding the efficacy of pharmacologic intervention for ALVD in survivors of childhood cancer and previous data suggesting that ALVD treatment efficacy is the key determinant of the cost-effectiveness of screening survivors for cardiomyopathy,8 our ability to demonstrate that screening low-risk survivors is not cost-effective even at substantially higher than anticipated ALVD treatment efficacies reinforces the need to reconsider current strategies for this group.

Recent challenges observed in the cost and delivery of health care in the United States and abroad have raised awareness of the need to reform health care approaches and spending.41,42 By using newly available data from the CCSS including survivors diagnosed between 1970 and 1999 to evaluate IGHG-endorsed risk groups, our work builds upon previous studies that also suggest that less frequent screening than currently recommended may be cost-effective.7,8 Our study addresses 2 key aspects of the existing IGHG cardiomyopathy guidelines that may enhance alignment of future recommendations with these objectives. First, our data support ongoing surveillance, including effective intervals, in high-risk survivors, whereas previous evidence for various aspects of these practices were only weak to moderate (Table 3). Specifically, we strengthen prior consideration to screen high-risk individuals more frequently than every 5 years, demonstrating that 2-year screening can prevent 1 in every 12 cases of HF and is cost-effective. Second, we provide compelling data to suggest that although low-risk individuals may benefit from screening, screening may not be cost-effective given their lower absolute HF risk. Importantly, we found that the preferred strategy for the moderate-risk group is uncertain, and additional data on screening performance and treatment effectiveness are needed to inform refinement of existing IGHG guidelines for these survivors.

Our study has a number of strengths. First, we bootstrapped individual-level CCSS data, allowing us to maintain covariance between patient characteristics and treatment exposures and to thus project more informative and accurate risk estimates. We also used the prospectively assessed and validated SJLIFE cohort to estimate ALVD risk and for model calibration. These factors facilitated robust model input regarding ALVD, HF, and mortality risk, rather than depending only upon published estimates. Second, we aligned tested groups with the IGHG risk stratification, which accounted for high-quality evidence to put forth practical, widely accepted guidelines. Thus, our results inform a broad-reaching community of medical providers and affect a global population of survivors.

Our results should be interpreted in the context of the following limitations. First, a number of assumptions informed our models. Among the most notable assumptions was the efficacy of treatment based on the SOLVD prevention trial, which studied the effect of treatment in individuals with HF unrelated to anthracyclines. To account for such assumptions, we incorporated a wide range of values into our sensitivity analyses, drawn from the strongest existing data regarding these parameters, and we are reassured by the stability of our high- and low-risk findings and our ability to conclude which strategies are most favorable. Similarly, we assumed a constant rate of progression from ALVD to HF as survivors aged; however, by using multiple calibrated parameter sets in our models, we believe we have accounted for this uncertainty and its impact on our results. In addition, we did not have access to an external cohort for model validation; however, we built our models on estimations from 2 large, long-standing survivor cohorts. In addition, overlap between these cohorts and similarities in grading strategies strengthened our ability to use both studies to estimate progression of ALVD to HF. We also assumed 100% compliance with screening recommendations because we focused on evaluating guideline recommendations; additional resources may be needed to increase adherence to and awareness of recommendations, which have been shown to be low among survivors and clinicians.43,44 Notably, IGHG risk groups do not account for age, sex, or modifiable health conditions that may increase the risk for ALVD or HF in an individual survivor. Other factors, such as risk factors for HF and individual preferences, will be important for survivors and providers to consider for individual screening decisions. Conversely, variability in model output across a range of model parameters precludes our ability to strongly endorse one surveillance strategy over another in moderate-risk survivors. It should also be noted that there are no benchmarks regarding the ideal number of screens per HF case averted in our population to provide context on whether the trade-offs in potential harms and benefits are reasonable. Finally, our results used health care cost estimates based on Medicare reimbursement rates, which may underestimate costs for younger survivors.

In summary, our model-based findings suggest screening survivors of childhood cancer at high risk for anthracycline-associated cardiomyopathy with echocardiograms at 2-year intervals is cost-effective. However, our data do not support the cost-effectiveness of screening to detect ALVD with echocardiography in the low-risk survivors, which in our study population would eliminate screening for approximately 40% of currently screened individuals. Future efforts to maximize guideline awareness and access to screening are necessary to implement cost-effective surveillance strategies.

© 2020 by American Society of Clinical Oncology

Presented, in part, at the 51st Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology, Lyon, France, October 23-26, 2019; the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Chicago, IL, May 31-June 4, 2019; and the 2019 North American Symposium on Late Complications after Childhood Cancer, Atlanta, GA, June 20-22, 2019.


Supported by the National Institutes of Health Grants No. P30CA21765 (Roberts), U24CA55727 (G.T.A.), and U01CA195547 (M.M.H. and L.L.R.); American Cancer Society Grant No. RSG-16018-01-CPHPS (J.M.Y.); and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

See accompanying editorial on page 3827

Conception and design: Matthew J. Ehrhardt, Zachary J. Ward, Joy M. Fulbright, Kevin C. Oeffinger, Wendy M. Leisenring, Gregory T. Armstrong, Melissa M. Hudson, Lisa Diller, Saro H. Armenian, Jennifer M. Yeh

Financial support: Leslie L. Robison, Gregory T. Armstrong, Jennifer M. Yeh

Administrative support: Gregory T. Armstrong

Provision of study materials or patients: Leslie L. Robison, Gregory T. Armstrong, Melissa M. Hudson

Collection and assembly of data: Matthew J. Ehrhardt, Daniel A. Mulrooney, Wendy M. Leisenring, Todd M. Gibson, Rebecca M. Howell, Leslie L. Robison, Gregory T. Armstrong, Jennifer M. Yeh

Data analysis and interpretation: Matthew J. Ehrhardt, Zachary J. Ward, Qi Liu, Aeysha Chaudhry, Anju Nohria, William Border, Daniel A. Mulrooney, Kevin C. Oeffinger, Paul C. Nathan, Louis S. Constine, Eric J. Chow, Gregory T. Armstrong, Lisa Diller, Yutaka Yasui, Saro H. Armenian, Jennifer M. Yeh

Manuscript writing: All authors

Final approval of manuscript: All authors

Accountable for all aspects of the work: All authors

Cost-Effectiveness of the International Late Effects of Childhood Cancer Guideline Harmonization Group Screening Guidelines to Prevent Heart Failure in Survivors of Childhood Cancer

The following represents disclosure information provided by authors of this manuscript. All relationships are considered compensated unless otherwise noted. Relationships are self-held unless noted. I = Immediate Family Member, Inst = My Institution. Relationships may not relate to the subject matter of this manuscript. For more information about ASCO's conflict of interest policy, please refer to or

Open Payments is a public database containing information reported by companies about payments made to US-licensed physicians (Open Payments).

Anju Nohria

Consulting or Advisory Role: Takeda Oncology

Research Funding: Amgen (Inst)

Uncompensated Relationships: Triple Gene

Louis S. Constine

Honoraria: UpToDate, Springer, Lippincott

Travel, Accommodations, Expenses: Particle Therapy Cooperative Group of North America

Rebecca M. Howell

Research Funding: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Melissa M. Hudson

Consulting or Advisory Role: Oncology Research Information Exchange Network, Princess Máxima Center

Lisa Diller

Stock and Other Ownership Interests: Novartis (I), Amgen (I), Roche (I), Crispr Therapeutics (I), Baxter (I), Spark Therapeutics (I), Regenxbio (I), LabCorp (I), Portola Pharmaceuticals (I)

No other potential conflicts of interest were reported.

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DOI: 10.1200/JCO.20.00418 Journal of Clinical Oncology 38, no. 33 (November 20, 2020) 3851-3862.

Published online August 14, 2020.

PMID: 32795226

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