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Posts tagged ‘PIVOT study results’

Dr Benjamin J. Davies, an academic urologist at the University of Pittsburgh today castrated the media over their coverage of the Prostate Cancer Intervention versus Observation Trial (PIVOT).

Pivot Prostate Cancer Trial Conclusion

In an article titled “Prostate Cancer: Lessons from PIVOT lost in media hype” published in the News and Views section of Nature Reviews Urology, Dr Davies states, “we must be careful to ensure the less-newsworthy facts and limitations of high-profile trials, such as PIVOT, are not lost in the media hype.

Davies goes on to say,

“an odious meme is circulating in the medical media, suggesting that prostate cancer is universally diagnosed, that PSA screening causes more harm than help, and that urologists should disregard basic epidemiologic data.”

Strong words perhaps, but those who follow Davies on twitter (@daviesbj) will know that he does not mince words and is not lost for an opinion.

However, in writing for a publication such as Nature Reviews Urology, which is probably not on the reading list of the private practice urologist or member of the mass media, he is preaching to the converted, namely academic-orientated physicians like Davies himself.

All clinical trials have their limitations, and Davies makes valid points that the PIVOT trial has a number of noticeable weaknesses.  Attention was also drawn to this in the accompanying editorial when the data was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  I encourage you to read his review.

I reported the presentations of the PIVOT data from the plenary sessions at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) and the 2012 congress of the European Association of Urology (EAU) on this blog and do take exception to Davies’ implied assertion that ALL the media coverage of the PIVOT trial was “hype.”

Experienced Healthcare journalists such as Scott Hensley (@scotthensley) provided fair and evenly balanced coverage on NPR Shots, for example.

If the media coverage of the PIVOT trial data was not as balanced or did not contain the message that Davies wanted to hear, then rather than shoot the media messenger the urology community should ask themselves why they did not obtain it?

Interestingly, at AUA 2011 and EAU 2012 there were no press conferences on the PIVOT trial data, yet it was an important topic and a plenary presentation.  Press conferences allow the media to ask questions of a panel of speakers and the opportunity to gain a variety of perspectives.  Why did the leading urologists who organize these major medical congresses not provide this access?

It is the responsibility of the urology community to reach out and educate the media if you think we don’t understand the nuances of the data.

Davies singles out the PIVOT trial for critical review, but in so doing he touches upon the wider issue of the lack of quality clinical trial data to support treatment and practice in urology.  It is for this reason that those clinical trials that are published, whatever their limitations, have disproportionate impact.

As I wrote from EAU 2012, why is there no level 1 evidence-based medicine that shows the benefits of robot assisted radical prostatectomy?  Are academic physicians unable to do high quality and robust clinical trials that justify their practice?

In his article, Davies goes beyond criticizing the PIVOT trial to castigating the media over their coverage of PSA screening, for which he is an ardent proponent.

Unfortunately, he ignores the reality that mass media don’t generate the data, they only report what organizations such as the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend.  If academic urologists believe the USPSTF got it wrong, then the failure is theirs in their inability to generate compelling data or influence the recommendations.

Finally, when Davies says, “no doubt urologists have not helped themselves by overscreening and overtreating” he touches on what I believe is the underlying cause of much of the problem associated with PSA screening.

Academic urologists need to educate their community colleagues.  Influencing everyday practice and treatment decisions will do more to help patients in the long run than being critical of the media, however justified that may be in some cases.

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As many of you know, I previously wrote up on this blog the results from the Prostate Cancer Intervention versus Observation trial (PIVOT) that were presented during the plenary session at the recent American Urological Association (AUA) 2011 annual meeting.

Other science bloggers who were at the meeting also wrote about the presentation (see Scott Hensley’s excellent post on NPR’s health blog).

In fact anyone in the press room at AUA (I had a media pass as a science blogger) could have reviewed a copy of Dr Wilt’s presentation immediately afterwards and written about it.

However, what surprises me is that the data from this trial, which to many was the highlight of the AUA meeting and may be practice changing for urologists, has had relatively little or no pick-up by the mainstream news media.  The only reason I can think for this is due to the fact there is no abstract available, press release or other information for the media to use as reference.  Why is this?

As a scientist it makes no sense to me to present the results of a landmark study in the plenary session of a major scientific congress and not to share the data, especially when the data could have a major impact for men diagnosed with early prostate cancer and the practice of evidence based medicine.  Are urologists seriously supposed to rely on the notes they made from a rushed presentation or blog posts to guide them?

While it is common for abstracts to be delayed till the day of the presentation for groundbreaking or late-breaking research, there is no reason why an abstract with the main findings from the PIVOT trial should not have been released.

A cooperative study sponsored by government institutions such as the VA/NCI/AHRQ should be prepared to disseminate data, or else why present it at AUA?

Instead, the problem may be more due the fact that Dr Wilt, as Scott Hensley pointed out in his NPR blog post, has not submitted a manuscript of the data he presented at AUA for publication, so may be trying not to fall foul of the so-called “Ingelfinger rule” that medical journals insist upon.

This rule was named after the New England Journal of Medicine editor who established it.  In its simplicity, it states that data will not be accepted for publication if it has been published elsewhere.

However, with no disrespect to a full Professor of Medicine at a major medical school who has published numerous papers, it’s unfair to the scientific community to want to have your cake and eat it  i.e. have the glory of a plenary presentation without allowing the scientific community to use the data until you get round to writing a paper.  Clearly, it would have made more sense to have a manuscript in press before agreeing to present at the AUA plenary.

I am also troubled by the fact that what constitutes publication of the data does not include presentation at the plenary session of a major scientific congress.  If this isn’t publication, what is?  While technically a plenary presentation is not a peer-reviewed publication in the sense of having been through the rigors of a journal’s peer-review process (the value of which may not be as much as we believe), there is some implied peer review of scientific merit, or else why would it be given a plenary?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) policy on dissemination of information, it’s OK to make a presentation at a scientific meeting, but not to disseminate further information to the media or the press.  I’m sorry but this makes no sense to me.  In other words it appears it’s OK for Dr Wilt to present the data, but not share it, but if you were at the meeting you can report it.  However, if you were not at the meeting, then you can’t obtain a copy of what was presented?

You can read the tangled logic of the JAMA policy below, and each journal is slightly different in how it views this:

Presentation of research findings during, or publication of an abstract for, an open scientific or clinical meeting does not preclude consideration of the study for publication in JAMA.

News media reports based on coverage that occurs during the usual course of presentation of a scientific or clinical paper does not preempt a manuscript from consideration for publication.

However, authors presenting papers at such meetings are advised to refrain from providing additional information beyond that covered during the course of their presentation and exchange with meeting attendees.

Yet, here we have the results of a major 12 year study which for the first time establishes evidence based medicine on the use of radical prostatectomy in early stage prostate cancer patients, and nobody wants to share the data with the public?

In the light of the presentation that was made at the AUA plenary and the lack of any further information while we wait for Dr Wilt to submit a manuscript through the peer-review process of a major journal, which can take several months, I think it’s important for this data to be shared.

Since media reports of data presented at meetings appear to not to forego the opportunity of publishing the results, at least according to the JAMA policy, I hope that we will see further news reports about Dr Wilt’s AUA plenary presentation.

The results from the PIVOT study are important to scientists, urologists and men talking to their doctor about prostate cancer.  This data may help them better judge whether they should undertake watchful waiting or undergo radical prostatectomy surgery.  The data slides and Dr Wilt’s conclusions speak for themselves, as you can see in my earlier post.  I look forward to reading the full scientific paper when it is eventually published.

Update May 23, 2011

A webcast with audio and slides of Dr Wilt’s plenary presentation of the PIVOT data is now available on the AUA website.


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