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Making a Mark

Nearly half the late-stage clinical trials sponsored by a US National Cancer Institute program have influenced patient care, a new analysis has found.

Researchers led by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Joseph Unger analyzed the effects of 182 trials in which the SWOG Cancer Research Network participated between January 1980 and June 2017. The SWOG Cancer Research Network is part of NCI's Clinical Trial Network (NCTN), which aims to identify new cancer treatments.

As they report in JAMA Network Open, the researchers, who are affiliated with SWOG, found that 82 of those trials, or about 45 percent, were associated with guideline care or new drug indications. In particular, they report that 38.5 percent of the trials influenced National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, 3.3 percent influenced new drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration, and 3.3 percent influenced both guidelines and drug approvals.

The researchers note that trials with both positive and negative results were influential, as about 42 percent of the practice-influencing trials were ones with negative results.

"Federally funded cancer treatment trials fill an important gap in clinical research by seeking answers to treatment questions that might not otherwise be explored," James Doroshow, the director of NCI's Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, which oversees the NCTN, says in a statement. "This study sheds light on the critical role these trials have in guiding clinical cancer treatment, whether the findings from the trials are positive or negative."