Cancer Trials With Positive Results Get More Media Play


Patients, survivors and their caregivers may not be getting the whole picture as presented by the lay media.

Clinical trials serve to help further treatment options for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure for cancer.

However, patients, survivors and their caregivers may not be getting the whole picture as presented by the lay media.

Domen Ribnikar, M.D., a clinical research fellow at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada, led a team of researchers from Israel, Spain, Switzerland and Slovenia, that examined how the lay press reported on the results of randomized controlled trials.

The poster was presented during the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2017 Congress in Madrid, Spain, and was named the Best Poster in Public Health and Health Economics out of 47 others.

Researchers found that randomized controlled trials with positive results were more likely to be reported by the lay press than those with negative results.

In addition, trials on immunotherapy and targeted therapy were more commonly reported than those on chemotherapy.

Their analysis included 180 phase 3 randomized controlled trials in breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer. The trials were completed between January 2005 and October 2016.

More than half (52 percent) of trials were reported in the lay media and more than one-quarter (27 percent) were reported before a scientific presentation or publication.

Researchers determined that early reporting of trial results by the lay press was twice as likely if the trial was positive compared to negative.

Targeted therapies were nearly five times as likely to be reported than chemotherapy and nearly eight times as likely if the trial involved immunotherapy.

There was also a difference in reporting based on tumor type. A trial was three times as likely to get press if it was in prostate cancer rather than breast cancer.

“It seems likely that readers of lay media are not getting an accurate view of oncology drug development,” Ribnikar said in a press release.

José M. Martin-Moreno, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, DrPH, professor of medicine and public health, University of Valencia, Spain, said the lay press is a key source of information about cancer for patients and the public.

“This poster puts its finger on an important problem,” he said. “It would be preferable if the media did report trials that have been previously peer reviewed by journals or by scientific committees at meetings.”

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