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October 2021

Confronting Publication Bias - A Cohort Design for Meta-Analysis

Journal/Book: Statistics in Medicine. 1987; 6: 11-29.

Abstract: In evaluating therapies, clinical investigators often need to rely an the published clinical trial literature which may be biased in favour of studies with positive or ´encouraging' results and this may lead to erroneous conclusions of therapeutic effectiveness. The problem of publication bias can be magnified when the evaluation is based an a pooled analysis of clinical trial results, since in this case even small differences between treatment groups may reach statistical significance.In this paper a model is developed for pooling the results of clinical trials which is free from publication bias. It is proposed that an international registry of all clinical trials be established with the objectives and endpoints of each trial clearly defined in the register. In this way for each therapeutic issue researchers can select a cohort of clinical trials independently from the trial results.The approach is illustrated using the International Cancer Research Data Bank (ICRDB) registry of cancer clinical trials to evaluate the effect of chemotherapy an survival in advanced ovarian cancer. In this example, the conclusions based an a pooled analysis of registered trials have important differences from a more traditional review of the published trials. Implications of the results and problems in implementing the model are discussed.

Keyword(s): Publication bias

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