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Dr West

Dubious ASCO Highlights, BS Endpoints for Ineffective Drugs, and the Credibility Gap


As many people in our readership know, the ASCO conference is the biggest and most important cancer conference of the year, and there are many competitors for the biggest highlights.  I was therefore annoyed to see that the top-listed highlight in the Medivizor blog description of ASCO highlights, for lung cancer and in general, was about anamorelin, an agent tested to combat cancer-related cachexia (severe weight loss) and associated weakness in patients with lung cancer.

You may note that this agent hasn’t received a lot of mention on the GRACE website or many other media sources.  It doesn’t actually crack the top 100 (and probably not top 250-500) top findings from ASCO.  Why does it merit mention as a highlight in some places? I’d bet good money that they are paid to highlight this work to patients and mislead them into thinking that the “positive” results actually matter.

Bullshit detectorI haven’t really spoken about anamorelin on the GRACE site before, even though their approach represents a lot of what we should disdain about drug development for cancer. My restraint has stemmed largely from the statement ingrained by my mother (and I’m sure by many of your parents as well: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” I’ve felt that in the absence of evidence showing some meaningful benefit, anamorelin doesn’t merit the time or effort to discuss it here. I’m certainly not the only one — of the 100 or more lung cancer experts I spoke with at ASCO, anamorelin was mentioned by exactly NONE of them — with good reason. It doesn’t deserve to be on the radar of highlights in lung cancer or any cancer. So why would it be front and center on a patient-oriented ASCO summary? Either anamorelin’s manufacturer paid for it, or the author is very gullible and not qualified to provide commentary about ASCO highlights.

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