Cancer studies often downplay chemo side effects: Researchers spin their results

chemo drug warning

Doctors relying on studies published in top journals for guidance about how to treat women with breast cancer may not be getting the most accurate information, according to a new analysis.

“Investigators want to go overboard to make their studies look positive,” said Dr. Ian Tannock, the senior author of the new study in the Annals of Oncology.

In two-thirds of the 164 studies Tannock and colleagues scrutinized, toxicities and serious side effects from chemotherapy, radiation or surgery were not listed in the paper’s abstract summary.

That’s important, said Tannock, of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, because “most of us (doctors) are so damn busy, we only read the abstract and skim the tables and figures.”

A fifth of the studies didn’t include toxicities in results tables, and about a third failed to mention them in either the abstract or the discussion section.

Most surprising, said Tannock, was that in a third of studies, if the treatment didn’t work as well as one might hope, researchers moved the goalposts, reporting results that weren’t what the study was originally designed to test.

Often, those so-called “secondary endpoints” may be less important and meaningful. There is a difference, for example, between showing people lived longer overall, and simply lived longer without their cancers coming back.

Researchers “gain more influence with positive studies,” said Tannock, whose team analyzed reports of late-stage trials of the kind used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to decide whether to approve drugs.

There are various pressures on researchers to make their results “look better than they really are,” Tannock told Reuters Health, including drug companies, which often sponsor trials. However, in the new study, who paid for a study didn’t have any relationship with how the results were presented.

Scientists may also spin their results to increase their chances of publishing in the top journals surveyed by the new study. Such marquee publications can improve the chances for tenure, promotion and grants.

One of the journals whose studies Tannock and his colleagues looked at, the New England Journal of Medicine, declined to comment, saying they don’t typically comment on other studies. Another, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, could not provide a comment by deadline.

Journals can help, Tannock said, by insisting that authors include toxicities in abstracts. “Even in 250 words, everybody can get that in there,” he said.

Tannock and colleagues concluded: “These reports were biased and used spin in attempts to conceal that bias. A possible explanation for this could be that the investigators, sponsors or both, prefer to focus on the efficacy of the experimental treatment and downplay toxicity to make the results look more attractive.”


My Comments

I have a love/hate relationship with studies like this.
I hate them because they uncover the seedy underbelly of the cancer treatment industry which includes ignoring or omitting critical information. This is despicable and infuriating.

I love them for the same reason, because it gives me another, “I told you so”.

The pharmaceutical industry is corrupt and they control the medical industry, from the cirriculum taught in med school all the way to the drug studies published in the latest medical journals that practicing doctors read and trust.

All ye who worship science take heed. Science can be biased and fraudulent.

It’s interesting how they uncovered that some researchers would ignore the negative findings of the primary focus of  the study and highlight a smaller less significant aspect because it was positive in some way.

Speaking of “positive”, the scientific jargon they use in these studies is incredibly subversive. Instead of saying, “Drug X made the tumor grow”. They will say something like “There was a positive association of proliferation..” or whatever.

There are two major incentives behind the scenes for researchers to make drugs look good:

Incentive #1 When researchers produce positive results for drug companies, they get more research assignments. That means mo’ money. We’ve all got bills to pay. Mo’ money helps with that.

Incentive #2 Getting research papers published adds to your prestige and credibility in the scientific community. That also leads to more assignments and more money.

This of course doesn’t include bribery, fraud, and deliberate data manipulation, which also happens.

the consequences of “research spinning” in the real world:

Oncologists are reading these research summaries on new drugs and prescribing them without knowing how toxic and damaging they can be to the patient.

If doctors don’t know the side effects, they aren’t going to warn you about them.

And even if they do have all the facts, some doctors still won’t tell you everything.
Researchers discovered this too, and I expound on it here:

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Barry Gourmet & Raw

    “Negative or bad news does not sell for any product to go to market. It is rife through out the process food industry , meat and dairy industry or any product that does harm to humanity. Its all covered up , undisclosed, or down played to make a sale. GMO is doing this as well.”

    “The sad truth is the FDA is looking for toxicity of a drug and not efficacy . Only Nature can give you efficacy .Nature does not have big advertising dollars to spend and man does. Take your pick which is it going to be ? ”

    “Pay now or pay later when it comes down to your food choices lifestyle and chronic medical expenses ?”

    “Studies show that Cancer Doctors ,Oncologists if given a Cancer diagnoses would not take their own Chemo , and radiation and would opt out of their own program to fly to Mexico or Germany for alternative treatment for Cancer. What does this tell you?

    “It tells me that first the Oncologist does not believe his or her protocol and its efficacy to work. Yet they give false hope to droves of people that they met for the first time to turn them into paying costumers. ”

    Do you see something wrong here? Is this OK with you?
    A broken corrupt system that profits off the backs of human misery is not only unethical but evil to its core based on share holders profits with the pharmaceutical industry . Even the founder of Standard Oil and the Pharmaceutical Industry named John D. Rockefeller all his life refused to take his own conventional medicine dispensed by his pharmaceutical industry that he controlled and founded.

    “Instead he would take only Alternative Medicine of herbs and natural remedies. Hypocrisy of the highest order is taking place through out our modern times and most all people are unaware of this and are led like sheep into a spiders web of doing harm to humanity for profit. Is this OK with you?”

    Barry Anderson aka Chef Barry Gourmet & Raw

  2. Marilyn

    Before being diagnosed last March with ‘breast cancer’, I knew nothing about anything to do with this disease. I guess my unconscious thought was if I don’t pay attention to all the ‘advertising’, I won’t get it. Well, I did. Before this I had nothing to do with the medical system, always healthy and relying on my own body for healing. I have a story to tell, but that is yet to come.
    I am fortunate to have come across your website Chris. You have truly been an inspiration and help to me in my journey. And I believe fully as you do, that what the medical system, the ‘scientific’ research, and big pharmas are getting away with is sadly corrupt and definitely criminal, prioritizing profits over human lives!
    The ‘ignorant’ oncologist assigned to my case only could give a blank stare when I asked for information about the possibility of alternative treatment.
    It was a very difficult decision of whether to believe the doom and gloom statistics of the medical ‘experts’ and not accept further surgery and the rest of the standard treatment, but almost one year later I am so thankful that I did not allow them to slowly torture me with their outdated, toxic treatments. How can we put on pressure for change?

  3. Coach Lin

    Hi Chris, I totally agree with you.

    As someone who has been fighting the awful long term damage Cancer treatment causes, I think it is dispicable that we are not warned. The cover up and unwillgness to deal with our pain and suffering post-treatment is also truly frightening.

    The damage to my CNS has plagued my life for 12 years and I cringe when ever I meet another Breast Cancer patient who is about to be poisoned. I know I will NEVER again let them use these treatments on me.

    I know doctors claim they are busy and have no time and I am sure that this is so, howeve we ALL know chemo, radiation and hormone therapies are TOXIC to the human body. I would think that if I was about to inject a sick person with a chemical, I would make damn sure I knew what the side effects were and explain them FULLY to my patient. I mean What the hell happend to “do no harm”?

    You also only have to be around the Cancer world for a short while to Know its all about money and the stats are fudged, so please Doctors dont make excuses, YOU KNOW the truth!

    I believe a study at McGill in Montreal showed that the vast majority of Oncologists would not undergo Chemo them selves or advise it to their families……??

    It really is time for the cover up to stop and in order for that to happen Doctors HAVE to stand by people like us and demand that our complaints be taken seriously.

    I applaud Dr Tanner for speaking out and am proud to be from Toronto but we need more to join him.

    I am not sure this will ever happen there is simply too much money at stake.

    In the meantime, its up to people like you and I to keep making noise.

    See you on the Bright side.:)


  4. Bob M

    Not surprised by this. I’ve gone through 3 large, well respected cancer centers in Los Angeles. Due to complications from other health issues, none have started a regimen of chemo and radiation, which is fine with me. But each one has added new information about the harmful effects of chemo and radiation. I’m not on my fourth cancer center, probably the largest in LA. They strongly supported my decision to keep researching and not jump into any treatment. The complications from chemo and radiation and quite serious, and could kill me more rapidly than the cancer. They are trying to come up with a treatment plan that might work. Meanwhile, my chiropractor, nutritionist and alternative medical staff are working to clear the tumor while everyone else scratches their collective heads. Will have another PET scan in a week or so, and we’re hoping it will show the tumor shrinking.

    Unfortunately most patients don’t have excellent insurance or the patience to keep probing the medical community to tell them the things that they need to know, such as the true toxicity of chemo and radiation and the possibility of alternatives that work!

    1. Gordana

      Hi Bob, I am surprised that the cancer centers support your decision to not jump into chemo. I live in the Los Anageles area as well and the doctors I spoke to all got agitated when I asked about alternative treatments. I have decided not to do chemo for my resected Stage III colon cancer (I am 43, no family history) and receive Mistletoe and Vit C IV treatments from a ND. Can I ask what alternative treatments you are receiving?


  5. Sue

    My 76 year old mom has just been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
    The onco wants to put her on chemo (Alimta and Cisplatin).

    It feels very counter-intuitive to me but my family is in a panic and want her to go onto the drugs asap.

    I’ve put her on a diet of organic raw juices, she’s radically cut down her sugar intake and is having very little animal protein.

    She’s also taking a range of supplements (anti cancer agents included).

    Do any of you have advice for us on living with this condition?

    She has had to have fluid drained off the pleural sac of her right lung twice in the last 2 1/2 months.

    Once the procedure is done, she feels much better and is able to breathe more easily.

    Thank you Chris for posting all this invaluable information.

    We live in South Africa, by the way!
    Any advice would be most appreciated.

    Thanks and all the best to you all!

    1. Nadine

      Sue, May I suggest you seek a free consultation with one of the foremost doctors in the field of noninvasive cancer treatment. The new BX Antitoxin I believe could bring your mother’s condition in complete resolve. Go to and discover what I speak of and email me for a consul. People from all over the world use this through him; she does not have to fly anywhere, just get well. I hope this helps.

  6. Jesicha's Hope

    This article was one of my ‘hightlights’ of the week; it was a moment when I found myself feeling well founded in my rantings upon this subject; however quickly admonishing myself I realized that although I rant publicly and privately; most are not aware of this ‘profound’ information, making it sad so many are wrongfully harmed.

    The information is profound, as it opens a door most want bolted shut; opening it brings to light for those willing to forgo their ‘god-like’ trust they have in doctors, to realize how they have been treated by rather untrustworthy doctors who are ‘too damn busy to read drug white pages’. What would these same people do when or if the news that near 96 percent of oncologists [in a private survey given at a national oncology convention ] said they would NOT use conventional cancer treatment if faced with such a diagnosis [or their family] but would leave our borders and get noninvasive cancer treatment. Will that ever get out to the media, and who would so dare to do so?

    This is an industry. In recognizing it as such, one must fully understand there will never be a cure; they will never commit such suicide, bringing the industry crashing down. It is a HUGE Billion dollar money maker; research papers concentrate not only on how the drug will work but how much money will it make. Many of the drugs do the same thing, with different side-effects, but some will with enough hype make billions over another very similar drug. Side effects on drugs that have a huge profit potential are down played, put within the research papers so deep, they know doctors will never read them. The patient suffers.

    Cancer fighters [cancer patients] are the victims in both having the cancer and now from the treatments they trust will make them well. It is a huge disgusting hoax on us and those we love.

    We at Jesicha’s Hope know well how conventional cancer treatments can destroy lives. Our founder, Jesicha, died through chemo side effects, ignored; although her noninvasive cancer treatment killed the cancer, the damage was too great to overcome. Many that come to us, present with similar circumstances; some we regretfully see lose the battle against the chemo onslaught of side effects. My message is to beware, it is your life, not the doctors; question all things, believe first in natural or noninvasive cancer treatments. save your good cells and body parts. Don’t trust those that will not also use it on themselves or their loved ones.

  7. barb

    I watched a show about know the cause where they interviewed a man that was once a drug rep that sold chemo drugs to doctors. I recorded it with my lap top and put it on my youtube. He goes to say that they fudged numbers to make it appear that the drugs were not that great. That they only had a 6% response rate and then played with the numbers and go to the doctors talking of 30% or 40% response rate and the way they finagled the numbers to make it look that way. It is chilling.

    1. barb

      Sorry, cannot edit – should read “…they fudged numbers to make it appear that the drugs they were selling had a better response rate. Instead of the 6% response rate, they would finagle the numbers to make it look as if the chemo drugs had a 30% or a 40% response rate.” sorry.

  8. To sue,I am sorry to here about your mum but your doing the right thing the chemo does not work for this cancer,my dad had mesothelioma 10 years ago he sadly died but his condition was very advanced and although we tried natural we only scratched the service of whats out there.Thanks to sites like these there is vast information that can cure cancer and I am currentrely making use of this my self as I have breast cancer and I feel better than I have felt for years.My mum on the other hand is going down the conventional route for the treatment of her breast cancer and is not faring so good.chemo is poison! and considers its success at giving a few more months at the cost of a lot more suffering.Thankyou chris for your continued light shinning on this corrupt buisness!

  9. Jazz

    Hi I am in india . In March 2011 was diagnosed with PNET cancer post operation to remove a growth from the cervical area . Went through 4 cycles of chemo with 30 days of radiation followed by another 12 cycles of chemo .

    Now there is new aggressive growth in the lymph node which is pressing my lungs and breathing pipe. The doctor rules out operation due to delicate position of the growth ( which can kill or paralyze me for life ) . They are recommending chemo but i think its like a blind man trying to shoot an ant in the desert in the dark kind of a scenario. The doctors dont know if its cancer or just a reaction to all the chemo and radiation.

    Completely lost as my wife has left me and really just waiting for the thing to swell up and burst ( is this possible ?) .

    Any help would be appreciated Cheers !!

    1. Rebecca Cody


      I’m so sorry to hear of all your troubles. Please check out If you could afford to go to a European clinic (Switzerland or Germany), they are using this to CURE very serious stage 4 cancers like pancreatic and brain and others. They are getting 25% tumor shrinkage a week at the clinics. If you can’t travel, you can still buy and use it yourself. They explain it all on the website. It supercharges your immune system and also gets rid of the enzyme that hides cancer and viruses from your immune system,

      I wish you healing and happiness.

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