Hype alert! Researchers often exaggerate findings

That hot new drug research program you read about on EurekAlert may not be all it's cracked up to be.

In a report for the Annals of Internal Medicine, Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz say that close to a third of all the releases put out by academic research centers or their affiliates hyped researchers' findings. Almost all of the 200 releases they reviewed included statements from researchers, and the study concludes that 26 percent of the statements exaggerated the importance of their work. Releases on animal studies were more likely to exaggerate results than statements on clinical trials.

They even provided an example. A release from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah quotes researcher Matthew Topham on an animal study involving skin cancer. The "implication is that a drug therapy could be developed to reduce tumors caused by Ras without significant side effects." But the report says that "neither treatment efficacy nor tolerability in humans was assessed."

Topham tells the Wall Street Journal that he thinks the critique is guilty of exaggeration, noting that he clearly stated that his study was done in mice and that it's common knowledge that what works in mice doesn't always work in humans.

- read the report from the Wall Street Journal

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