Washington: Cancer research tends to involve small studies focused on a single therapy, often falling short of scientific standards seen in other medical investigations, said a study released Monday.The trend may be driven by a desire to speed treatments to market, but raises questions about how well experimental cancer-fighting therapies will work in practice, said the findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association."By increasing transparency, I think we can understand what works and what doesn`t," lead author Bradford Hirsch, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, told AFP.Researchers looked at the US government`s database of clinical trials and found that about 22 percent of all research is devoted to cancer, the largest single discipline, followed by mental health (nine percent) and infectious disease (8.3 percent).Sixty-two percent of cancer trials were based on one drug, without comparing it to other therapies, said the analysis of nearly 41,000 studies from 2007 to 2010 contained in the online registry www.clinicaltrials.gov.Only around a quarter of other research specialties did these types of single-arm studies.Cancer studies tended to be smaller in enrollment, with a median size of 51 patients compared to 72 elsewhere, and nearly two-thirds of cancer research was not randomized, compared to less than a quarter in other fields.Also, clinicians were less likely to be "blinded" to the drug being used to avoid bias -- nearly nine out of ten cancer trials were "open-label" compared to just under half in other studies.The analysis is part of a project known as the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative, a partnership between Duke and the US Food and Drug Administration to improve research practices.
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