Same Study, Different Interpretations


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An article in The New York Times1 about an ovarian cancer screening study published in The Lancet2 is headlined, “Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer May Become Possible,” and leads with the promise of reduced mortality with multimodal screening for ovarian cancer. An article in MedPage Today3 about the same study is headlined, “Ovarian Cancer Screening Study Falls Short,” and leads with the failure of the study to demonstrate a significant difference in mortality. The experts quoted in the two articles respectively range from mildly optimistic to decidedly pessimistic, although all agreed that further follow-up is needed before multimodal screening could be recommended for routine use.

“With any kind of medical reporting, whether it is for screening or for treatment,” there is always the concern about creating unrealistic expectations, according to Karen H. Lu, MD, Chair of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, Division of Surgery, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. “The interpretation of a study can be difficult, and even two very well-qualified individuals can interpret studies differently,” she added.

Dr. Lu is lead investigator of a multicenter study using the same screening strategy used in the study reported in The Lancet and was among those experts expressing optimism that the strategy might prove effective in reducing ovarian cancer deaths. Still, she noted, “I am someone who is always very cautious about not overpromising.” ■

Disclosure: Dr. Lu reported no potential conflicts of interest.

References

1. Grady D: Early detection of ovarian cancer may become possible. The New York Times, December 17, 2015.

2. Jacobs IJ, Menon U, Ryan A, et al: Ovarian cancer screening and mortality in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS): A randomised controlled trial. Lancet. December 17, 2015 (early release online).

3. Bankhead C: Ovarian cancer screening study falls short. MedPage Today, December 17, 2015.



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