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Caveats about papers presented at cancer meetings

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Reuters Health reports:

Preliminary results of cancer treatment studies presented at major cancer meetings should be viewed with caution, because the final results may wind up being quite different, new research shows.

Dr. Christopher M. Booth of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and colleagues found that nearly two-thirds of abstracts presented at cancer meetings had small differences in numbers of patients, follow-up times, or results when compared with final reports of randomized clinical trials published in medical journals.

And for 10% of the presented abstracts they reviewed, researchers came to the opposite conclusion when the trial was actually published. This means study authors may have initially concluded that a treatment should be adopted, but switched to not recommending a therapy in a published report, or vice versa.

… (The author says) given the heavy media attention now given to research on cancer treatments, it’s important for both patients and doctors to be aware of when a publicized finding is the final word — and when it isn’t.

(Hat tip to Ivan Oransky of Reuters.)

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