Researchers investigating how well the chemotherapy drug sunitinib works against various types of cancer have overestimated the drug’s effectiveness by an average of 45 percent, a new analysis shows.
Valerie Henderson of McGill University and colleagues reexamined data from 158 experiments involving 2,716 animals, mostly mice. Researchers who conducted the original experiments tended to publish only those in which sunitinib shrunk tumors. Not publishing negative findings led to an 11 percent overestimate of the drug’s ability to shrink brain tumors called high-grade gliomas, Henderson and colleagues report October 13 in eLife. Sunitinib’s breast cancer-fighting ability was inflated by 52 percent, the team found.
Study results were also biased by not “blinding” studies to keep researchers from knowing which animals got the experimental drug.
Failure to reproduce findings from animal studies has been a major stumbling block for drug researchers.