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Clinical Trials and What Statistics Really Mean

Dr. Scott Strome University of Maryland

Progression-free survival – or how long a patient has before a tumor progresses – and overall survival are how results are measured during clinical trials. According to Dr. Scott Strome, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, there are drugs available now that can improve the progression-free survival and overall survival of later-stage lung cancer patients who have not responded well to primary therapies.

It’s very exciting for doctors to be able to offer these new therapies, but it’s important to remember that they don’t work for every patient. There are plenty of patients who participate in clinical trials, are exposed to the toxicities of a drug – and do not benefit at all.

It’s important to understand the distinction between these two types of survival statistics. Improvement in overall survival means the study shows that you actually live longer because of the treatment. Progression-free survival means that you don’t live longer, but you have more time when your cancer does not get any worse.

Some experts question the importance of a drug that improves progression-free survival by a few months. But others say that if a drug can give the patient more months when the cancer does not get worse, then that is an important improvement.

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Dr. Scott Strome is the chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine. Read More