Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 18:42 EDT

Results of New Cancer Drug Trials Remain Underreported

August 22, 2005

A new study finds many phase I trials for new cancer fighting drugs never get reported in peer-reviewed journals, and says investigators should be committed not just to finding novel compounds, but also to make sure final results of their studies be disseminated to the medical community. The study appears in the October 1, 2005 issue of CANCER (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/cancer-newsroom), a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, and finds about one in three studies presented at a large cancer meeting never got published, with investigators citing lack of time and relocation as the main obstacles to publication, rather than the type of drug being studied or the lack of sponsorship by a pharmaceutical company.

As the number of potential new drugs and protocols for cancer treatment has expanded, particularly in the last decade, communicating the results of the clinical trials to specialists is paramount to saving lives. Presentation of preliminary clinical trial results and publication of final results in peer-reviewed journals is the cornerstone of accurate dissemination of data to colleagues. Previous studies indicate that the publication rate for clinical disciplines range from 78 percent in pediatrics to 31 percent in spine specialists. In 1984 only 58 percent of phase I trial abstracts accepted at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting were published.

Luis H. Camacho, M.D., M.P.H. of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and colleagues from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York calculated the publication rate of abstracts detailing phase I clinical trial data that were accepted at the 1997 ASCO meeting over the next 7.5 years. They also examined the factors that may influence publication.

The authors found about two in three publications (67 percent) were published within the time period studied. Publications that were selected for oral presentation at the meeting were no more likely to be published than those not presented. However, abstracts that were presented were published sooner. Furthermore, while abstracts of novel drug types were more likely to be presented at the meeting, they were no less likely than abstracts on non-novel drugs to be published. Pharmaceutical financial support also did not influence the publication rate. However, researchers often cited lack of time and author relocation as the major obstacles to publication.

“Persistent underreporting of phase I clinical trials hinders dissemination of information to the medical community, delays scientific progress, and may ultimately have an adverse effect on patient care,” conclude the authors.

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