A critical evaluation of quality of life in clinical trials of breast cancer patients treated with radiation therapy
The aim of this study was to investigate the extent to which health-related quality of life (HRQOL) parameters have been reported in phase III trials with breast cancer patients (BCPs) who received radiation therapy (RT). We also examine the frequency and correlates of significant HRQOL gains. A systematic review was conducted. When HRQOL was a study endpoint, we extracted data on the instruments used for HRQOL analysis, assessing if there was formal statistical comparison between study groups and the results of such comparisons as reported by the authors of the studies. In result, 182 trials were included. HRQOL was considered as endpoint in 38 (20.8%) of the studies and it was used as primary endpoint in 10.9% of them. Of 22 trials that had a positive primary endpoint, 18 had a significant benefit in HRQOL, in favor of the experimental arm. Of 13 trials that had a negative primary endpoint, there were no differences in HRQOL among the study groups. With respect to HRQOL assessment, statistical methods and definition of timing of evaluation were described in 32 (84.2%) and 36 (94.7%) trials, respectively. In conclusion, HRQOL has been infrequently investigated in trials in BCP who received RT. Statistical methods and timing of evaluation were infrequently described with sufficient detail to be informative.