Trial data from new cancer treatments may be imparting an overly optimistic portrait of surviving the disease to patients. As a result, two oncologists have called for changes to be made to the protocols the American FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, apply to the standards of information collected.
One cancer expert said that the positive outcomes seen with some treatments occurred when they were administered to relatively healthy and young patients. Sometimes patients for clinical trial services were selected extremely carefully so that they can participate quickly, and the trial drug will not conflict with other treatments or conditions the patient may have. It is thought that while the drugs may seem to perform well in a trial, when applied to a different group of patients, the outcome may be quite something else altogether.
This report from The Guardian seems to epitomise the rather breathless prose applied to new cancer medications.
One of the oncologists’ concerns was that the FDA is meant to be assisting drugs to market that will have benefits for the average patient. They said that trial groups for testing a lot of drugs were hardly representative of the general populace. It also appeared that when the success rates of tumour drugs approved between 2002 and 2014 were compared, the overall rise in survival was only around two months.
The slim benefits combined with the carefully curated test group of patients added up to drugs that yielded very marginal results on real world patients, who may be older and suffering from other conditions, the doctors said. Patients more advanced in years can sometimes react badly to drug treatments and need adjustments to the dose or even resting periods, which can be detrimental to any benefits that the drug may have.
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Another expert stated that the performance of a drug on average patients was the only way to assess if it was a useful treatment. Some influential US cancer research groups are now examining possibilities for modernising the way that new cancer treatments are tested.