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Cool-down reflection after American Society of Clinical Oncology fervor

The annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference is over for another year. News out of the conference dominated much of the health news agenda over the past week.

On the In Vivo blog, Mary Jo Laffler reflected on how:

“…increasingly, the importance of the data being presented before packed meeting halls is being questioned. “We need to get away from things that add cost but not value,” UnitedHealthcare’s Lee Newcomer noted during a panel on health care reform.

Defining what value means, however, is a trickier subject.

Most clinical trials don’t mean much for clinical practice, Ralph Meyer of Queen’s University asserted at the plenary on randomized clinical trials. With all the controls and standardization, they represent the ideal – not real world practice.

In a talk called “Raising the Bar for Efficacy In Cancer Therapeutics,” Alberto Sobrero, Head of the Medical Oncology Unit at Italy’s Ospedale San Martino, took on whether or not those trials produce clinically meaningful data, or just go after statistical significance.

Unlike in the past, the skepticism of therapeutic value outlined in posters and abstracts isn’t limited to the back corridors or the marginal sessions on clinical trial design and practice issues — it’s coming from the podium at scientific sessions.

It’s great to see researchers and industry execs coming out of the convention with excitement about promising new pathways and the potential for combinations. But they should also start thinking harder about raising the bar. Otherwise climate change (of a reimbursement and/or regulatory nature) could spark a cool down in one of the hottest therapeutic areas of the industry.”

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