Did the reporting of prognostic studies of tumour markers improve since the introduction of REMARK guideline? A comparison of reporting in published articles

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 14;12(6):e0178531. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178531. eCollection 2017.


Although biomarkers are perceived as highly relevant for future clinical practice, few biomarkers reach clinical utility for several reasons. Among them, poor reporting of studies is one of the major problems. To aid improvement, reporting guidelines like REMARK for tumour marker prognostic (TMP) studies were introduced several years ago. The aims of this project were to assess whether reporting quality of TMP-studies improved in comparison to a previously conducted study assessing reporting quality of TMP-studies (PRE-study) and to assess whether articles citing REMARK (citing group) are better reported, in comparison to articles not citing REMARK (not-citing group). For the POST-study, recent articles citing and not citing REMARK (53 each) were identified in selected journals through systematic literature search and evaluated in same way as in the PRE-study. Ten of the 20 items of the REMARK checklist were evaluated and used to define an overall score of reporting quality. The observed overall scores were 53.4% (range: 10%-90%) for the PRE-study, 57.7% (range: 20%-100%) for the not-citing group and 58.1% (range: 30%-100%) for the citing group of the POST-study. While there is no difference between the two groups of the POST-study, the POST-study shows a slight but not relevant improvement in reporting relative to the PRE-study. Not all the articles of the citing group, cited REMARK appropriately. Irrespective of whether REMARK was cited, the overall score was slightly higher for articles published in journals requesting adherence to REMARK than for those published in journals not requesting it: 59.9% versus 51.9%, respectively. Several years after the introduction of REMARK, many key items of TMP-studies are still very poorly reported. A combined effort is needed from authors, editors, reviewers and methodologists to improve the current situation. Good reporting is not just nice to have but is essential for any research to be useful.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Publishing / standards*
  • Research Report / standards*
  • Writing / standards


  • Biomarkers, Tumor

Grant support

This project received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors, except for the article processing charge that was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the University of Freiburg in the funding programme Open Access Publishing.