'High-Speed' Science: It's Time We Slow Down

Maurie Markman, MD


December 01, 2020

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. This is Maurie Markman from Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. I want to briefly discuss what I'll call high-speed science.

Clearly, the COVID-19 crisis has led to the rapid dissemination of information related to clinical trials and retrospective studies with the intent to accelerate the availability of new treatments for patients either exposed to or infected with serious COVID-19. The problem with that acceleration in the speed of material getting into the media, often simply in a preprint that hasn't been reviewed, is that misleading information can be made widely available. In addition, the speed of publication can actually lead to the dissemination of information in the peer-reviewed literature that's simply wrong. In June, for example, several reports had to be withdrawn from high-profile medical journals because it turned out that a very large database used in these studies was apparently nonexistent.

For medicine in general and oncology specifically, scientific meetings conducted virtually mean that we are not able to gather to talk to each other about the implications of the science. We have seen that the discussions are not as extensive at these virtual meetings. And we now also see a lot of information coming out by press release.

I really want to emphasize that we need to slow down. We need to slow down and carefully, critically, review information not only in press releases and abstracts, but in preprints as well. Important information is available, no question about it. But the requirements for rigorous review haven't changed, and the need for analysis of these reports hasn't changed. This is true inside and outside the oncology sphere.

The recent lessons to be learned from the high-profile retractions of papers is something all of us who are reviewing the medical literature need to remember and carefully consider. Thank you for your attention.

Maurie Markman, MD, is president of medicine and science at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. He has more than 20 years of experience in cancer treatment and gynecologic oncology research.

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