And add to that, the June issue of Oncology News International (June 2010, V 19, No 6) quotes a Duke University study of the use of high-tech cancer imaging, with one representative finding being that the average Medicare lung cancer patient receives 11 radiographs, 6 CT scans, a PET scan, and MRI, two echocardiograms, and an ultrasound, all within two years of diagnosis. A study co-author (Dr. Kevan Schulman) asks: "Are all these imaging studies essential? Are they all of value? Is the information really meaningful? What is changing as a result of all this imaging?"
For one thing, clinical trials virtually always have time to disease progression as a primary endpoint. Without the imaging studies, one can't get accurate time to progression data. So these are tests performed for the benefit of drug companies seeking new drug approval, for clinical investigators seeking contracts and publications, and for clinicians seeking an easy way to make clinical decisions (and, occasionally, seeking income enhancement).
Gregory D. Pawelski