New 'wonder' cancer drugs may be nothing of the sort - and could be given miracle status by zealous drug companies anxious to get their new drug on the market before all the proper studies have been carried out.
In the past 10 years, 25 studies on cancer drugs have been stopped early by the sponsoring drug company because, they have said, results looked 'promising'.
Researchers who investigated the pattern discovered that the trials were stopped, on average, after just 30 months, and had been tested on a fraction of patients that were originally enlisted.
Lead researcher Dr Giovanni Aplone commented: "Data on effectiveness and potential side effects can be missed by stopping a trial early."
He said that the true effectiveness and safety of any drug could be established only after years - and not months - of study, and usually among much larger groups than those used for the trials. Most of the studies that were ended prematurely had tested the drug on just 40 per cent of those who had been initially recruited.
(Source: Annals of Oncology, 2008; March 28: doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdn069).