A Meta-Analysis of Psychosocial Interventions for Cancer Patients Gone Awry

Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, .
Annals of Behavioral Medicine (Impact Factor: 4.2). 03/2009; 37(1):94-6; author reply 97-100. DOI: 10.1007/s12160-008-9075-2
Source: PubMed
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    • "It also suggests that early warnings about the perils of conducting meta-analysis as if it were a straightforward , even mechanical procedure with a minimal amount of subjectivity or arbitrary judgment by authors (Wanous, Sullivan, & Malinak, 1989) may not have been heeded. Coyne, Thombs, and Hagedoorn (2008) recently provided a extensive critique of a meta-analysis of interventions for distress among breast cancer patients (Zimmermann, Heinrichs, & Baucom , 2007). The first research question addressed by Zimmermann et al. (2007) was whether patients with breast cancer had better outcomes when they received interventions as part of a study that only included those with breast cancer as compared with studies that included patients with mixed diagnoses. "
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    ABSTRACT: We examined four meta-analyses of behavioral interventions for adults (Dixon, Keefe, Scipio, Perri, & Abernethy, 2007; Hoffman, Papas, Chatkoff, & Kerns, 2007; Irwin, Cole, & Nicassio, 2006; and Jacobsen, Donovan, Vadaparampil, & Small, 2007) that have appeared in the Evidence Based Treatment Reviews section of Health Psychology. Narrative review. We applied the following criteria to each meta-analysis: (1) whether each meta-analysis was described accurately, adequately, and transparently in the article; (2) whether there was an adequate attempt to deal with methodological quality of the original trials; (3) the extent to which the meta-analysis depended on small, underpowered studies; and (4) the extent to which the meta-analysis provided valid and useful evidence-based recommendations. Across the four meta-analyses, we identified substantial problems with the transparency and completeness with which these meta-analyses were reported, as well as a dependence on small, underpowered trials of generally poor quality. Results of our exercise raise questions about the clinical validity and utility of the conclusions of these meta-analyses. Results should serve as a wake up call to prospective authors, reviewers, and end-users of meta-analyses now appearing in the literature.
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