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25-11-2016 | Oncology | News | Article

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Oncology conference abstracts fall short of mark

medwireNews: Randomized clinical trial (RCT) data presented in abstract form at a key oncology conference are not of acceptable quality, say researchers.

They evaluated the quality of 402 comparative RCT abstracts presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, of which 178 were presented in 2007 and 224 in 2015, based on the 2008 Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) guidelines.

Lead author Jun Ma (Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center, Guangdong, China) and team report that 30.9% of abstracts presented in 2007 and 21.0% of those in 2015 did not give the phase of the trial, while 93.3% and 87.5% did not specify the trial design.

Whether the trial achieved its primary endpoint or not was not evident for 29.8% of abstracts reported at the 2007 conference and 10.3% of those presented in 2015.

The researchers found some “encouraging” improvements over the study period – for instance, significantly more abstracts specified the primary outcome in 2015, at 87.1% compared with 67.4% in 2007.

This was also the case for providing information on the precision of the effect size (eg, confidence intervals), the number of participants randomly assigned to each group, and trial registration, at 40.6% versus 21.7%, 46.0% versus 34.3%, and 93.3% versus 1.7%, respectively.

A significantly higher proportion of abstracts presented in 2015 versus 2007 gave adequate information on trial blinding – specifying who was blinded or reporting the study as unblinded or open-label – but the rate was still low, at 16.1% and 5.6%, respectively.

Ma et al explain that good reporting is essential as a large proportion of RCTs initially presented at conferences are not subsequently published as full articles, and as such “a meeting abstract may provide the only permanent information about an RCT that [has] been executed.”

They conclude in JAMA Oncology: “If authors were to follow a comprehensive guide like the CONSORT for abstracts, the heterogeneity in reporting may be minimized, which would facilitate the review process and improve the quality of abstracts, as observed in journal abstracts.”

By Shreeya Nanda

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2016