When it comes to cancer research, important clinical trial discoveries often take a year or longer to reach the public, according to a recent analysis of Phase III oncology trials across the United States. A recent report in Healio asks whether such delays could be hindering cancer treatment and advances in clinical care.
According to the analysis, which was conducted by researchers at the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Brown University in Rhode Island, it takes a year or more for Phase 3 discoveries — even those made during the most important clinical trials — to reach publication.
For the study, investigators evaluated 745 oncology-related press releases issued by eight pharmaceutical companies between 2011 and 2016. They discovered that the median time between a press release announcing trial results and the sharing of those results via a peer-reviewed journal or ClinicalTrials.gov was 300 days. And only 70 percent of studies with negative results posted findings within two years of their initial announcement via a press release. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of abstracts presented at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) did not get published in a peer-reviewed journal within two years of presentation. Nearly one-quarter of these studies were not published within five years.
Why are these holdups so troubling to medical researchers? Study authors wrote that these delays sometimes force doctors to treat patients with outdated information on their conditions and can result in duplicate research, leading to unnecessary spending, a slowdown in scientific discoveries and unnecessary risk to cancer patients enrolling in clinical trials.
What’s the solution? “We understand that no one stakeholder is exclusively responsible for these delays,” lead study author Lindor Qunaj, BSc a medical student at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, told HemOnc Today. “For that reason, we advocate for collaboration across pharmaceutical companies, publishers, regulatory bodies and academic researchers.”
Possible strategies for speeding up publication include: increasing the publication of “draft” findings prior to peer review and requiring medical journals to post results to ClinicalTrials.gov at the time of their press release. In addition, the study’s authors call for publishers to consider innovative strategies to push forward the publication of both positive and negative trial results.
Until then, many cancer patients may have to wait a considerable amount of time to benefit from the latest findings in oncology research — a potentially health-threatening delay in information.