While hundreds of clinical trials in lung cancer are completed each year, results from many trials will not be publicly released or published in a peer-reviewed journal. According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, results from as many as 25% of lung cancer clinical trials are never published. Researchers evaluated phase II and III trials carried out between 2000 and 2016 to determine publication rate and factors impacting publication. Several factors influenced whether a trial’s results were published, including trial sponsor, number of institutions involved, number of patients enrolled, and trial completion. In general, trials with fewer than 500 enrolled patients, those carried out at a single institution, and industry-sponsored trials were less likely to be published than those carried out at multiple institutions, enrolling more than 500 patients, and sponsored by the federal government. Trials that were not completed due to low accrual or high toxicity were most likely to never be published, with more than a third of these never releasing results in any form.
High Altitude: This news may not come as a surprise to many oncologists currently involved in clinical trial research. However, it points to a great unmet need for a repository for all clinical trial data, including data that are never published in peer-reviewed journals. Negative trials and those not conducted to completion are least likely to be published, but these data provide important information both for treating physicians and for those involved in clinical trial research, and can guide future clinical trial design.
Ground Level: While this information may not directly impact community oncologists, it is still important to be aware that not all clinical trial results reach publication and that published results may not always represent the full story.