The frequency of medical reversals in a cross-sectional analysis of high-impact oncology journals, 2009-2018

BMC Cancer. 2021 Aug 3;21(1):889. doi: 10.1186/s12885-021-08632-8.


Background: Identifying ineffective practices that have been used in oncology is important in reducing wasted resources and harm. We sought to examine the prevalence of practices that are being used but have been shown in RCTs to be ineffective (medical reversals) in published oncology studies.

Methods: We cross-sectionally analyzed studies published in three high-impact oncology medical journals (2009-2018). We abstracted data relating to the frequency and characterization of medical reversals.

Results: Of the 64 oncology reversals, medications (44%) represented the most common intervention type (39% were targeted). Fourteen (22%) were funded by pharmaceutical/industry only and 56% were funded by an organization other than pharmaceutical/industry. The median number of years that the practice had been in use prior to the reversal study was 9 years (range 1-50 years).

Conclusion: Here we show that oncology reversals most often involve the administration of medications, have been practiced for years, and are often identified through studies funded by non-industry organizations.

Keywords: Low-value care; Medical reversal; Oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology* / statistics & numerical data
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Publications / standards
  • Publications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research / standards*
  • Research / statistics & numerical data*