Hard to Predict Success

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JULY 11, 2017

This is a somewhat discouraging article from NPR about the difficulties of predicting the success of studies or particular research. It is a helpful reminder of the complexity of cancer and the many, many hurdles between "the bench and the bedside" (as they say). When we read excited reports of cancer research progress, we need to remember that some of the hyped studies have only happened with mice and some haven't even gotten that far and plenty have not completed the clinical trials process.

Sometimes I talk with people who think that scientists are withholding information and are in league with pharma to make money. Not true. Absolutely not true. Treating cancer, let alone curing or preventing cancer, is a very tough problem.

Scientists Are Not So Hot At Predicting Which Cancer Studies Will Succeed

Science relies on the careful collection and analysis of facts. Science also benefits from
human judgment, but that intuition isn't necessarily reliable. A study finds that
scientists did a poor job forecasting whether a successful experiment would work on a
second try.
That matters, because scientists can waste a lot of time if they read the results from
another lab and eagerly chase after bum leads.
"There are lots of different candidates for drugs you might develop or different for
research programs you might want to invest in," says Jonathan Kimmelman, an
associate professor of biomedical ethics at McGill University in Montreal. "What you
want is a way to discriminate between those investments that are going to pay off
down the road, and those that are just going to fizzle."

Read more: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/04/535412346/scientists-are-not-so-hot-at-predicting-which-cancer-studies-will-succeed

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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