Publication Bias in Gastrointestinal Oncology Trials Performed over the Past Decade

Gabrielle W. Peters, Weiwei Tao, Wei Wei, Joseph A. Miccio, Krishan R. Jethwa, Michael Cecchini, Kimberly L. Johung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the gold standard for evidence-based practice, but their development and implementation is resource intensive. We aimed to describe modern RCTs in gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and identify predictors of successful accrual and publication. Materials and Methods: was queried for phase III GI cancer RCTs opened between 2010 and 2019 and divided into two cohorts: past and recruiting. Past trials were analyzed for predictors of successful accrual and the subset with ≥3 years follow-up were analyzed for predictors of publication. Univariate and multivariable (MVA) logistic regression were used to identify covariates associated with complete accrual and publication status. Results: A total of 533 GI RCTs were opened from 2010 to 2019, 244 of which are still recruiting. In the “past” trials cohort (235/533) MVA, Asian continent of enrollment was a predictor for successful accrual, whereas trials with prolonged enrollment (duration longer than median of 960 days) trended to failed accrual. Predictors for publication on MVA included international enrollment and accrual completion. Sponsorship was not associated with accrual or publication. Notably, 33% of past trials remain unpublished, and 60% of trials that were closed early remain unpublished. Conclusion: Accrual rate and the primary continent of enrollment drive both trial completion and publication in GI oncology. Accrual must be streamlined to enhance the impact of RCTs on clinical management. A large portion of trials remain unpublished, underscoring the need to encourage dissemination of all trials to, at a minimum, inform future trial design. Implications for Practice: Two-thirds of gastrointestinal (GI) oncology phase III randomized controlled trials successfully accrue; however, one third of these trials are unpublished and more than half of trials that close early are unpublished. The strongest predictors for publication are successful accrual and international collaborations. Initiatives to optimize the trial enrollment process need to be explored to maximize the potential for trials to engender progress in clinical practice. Moreover, this study identified a significant publication bias in the realm of GI oncology, and the field should promote reporting of all trials in order to better inform future trial questions and design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-667
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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