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Unrealistic optimism may taint trials     (Health News)
01/27/2011 11:24 P (EST)
NEW YORK, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher cautions unrealistic optimism may be common in early cancer trials and may distort the views of participants.

Lead author Lynn A. Jansen of Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, Ore., says unrealistic optimism is a bias that leads people to believe -- with respect to a hazard -- that they are more likely than others to have a positive outcome, or perhaps less likely to experience a negative one. This phenomenon, says Jansen, may often be seen in health-related contexts.

The study, published in IRB: Ethics & Human Research, finds unrealistic optimism among prospective participants presented with the risks and benefits of participating in an early phase oncology clinical trial.

Jansen and colleagues analyzed data from 72 adults enrolled in clinical cancer trials in the New York area who were interviewed about their chances of experiencing a range of trial-related risks and benefits.

"We found a significant optimistic bias in their responses," the study says. "Respondents tended to overestimate the benefits of the trial they were enrolled in and underestimate its risks. In addition, we found no significant relationship between respondents' understanding of the trial's purpose and how susceptible they were to unrealistic optimism. Our findings suggest that improving the consent process for oncology studies requires more than addressing deficits in understanding."