Sunday, January 18, 2009
Australia What changes are needed to the current direction and interpretation of clinical cancer research to meet the needs of the 21st century?
In this 21st century, we will need to better analyse the outcomes of our spending on newer and more expensive anticancer drugs, particularly through postmarketing assessment, to ensure that these investments are justified.
Evidence-based medicine is only as good as the evidence available, and we advocate for more independently designed and funded trials that concentrate on the minimum effective dose and duration of therapies to reduce toxicity to patients and to control costs. There is a place for governments to provide funding for these studies in the public good.
Although improving survival over standard care is the gold standard for proving the efficacy of a new therapy, surrogate endpoints such as early biological marker changes, functional imaging changes or earlier measures such as progression-free survival must be investigated to enable drug therapies to be discontinued earlier if they are ineffective.
Studies searching for the presence of biological targets must be funded to exploit the potential advantage of targeted therapies.
Treatment guidelines are best written by experts who are independent of the pharmaceutical industry.
Existing databases should be linked to better monitor the outcomes of new therapies. Privacy safeguards are important, but privacy legislation may need to be modified to serve the greater public good from the information gained from linking databases.