Objectives: In clinical trials of new cancer drugs, reliable data for progression-free survival will often become available far sooner than reliable data for overall survival. The aim of this study was to determine how many months it would be expected that any given new drug for metastatic breast or colorectal cancer will add to overall survival times given that the number of months the drug adds to progression-free survival times relative to a standard drug is roughly already known.
Methods: A literature search was conducted over Medline for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published between January 1980 and August 2008 that assessed the effect of a drug treatment in comparison to an alternative drug treatment on patients with either metastatic breast or metastatic colorectal cancer.
Results: The literature search found 95 and 74 RCTs for metastatic breast and colorectal cancer, respectively, that satisfied the study's inclusion criteria. The results from these trials are consistent, in the case of each of these two metastatic cancers, with gains in time to disease progression being generally associated with no gains or with very slight gains or losses in post-progression survival (i.e., the time between disease progression and death).
Conclusions: It would appear that drugs for metastatic breast or colorectal cancer that extend, by a given amount, the time period between the start of treatment and disease progression (i.e., time to progression) have a strong tendency to extend, by roughly the same amount, the period between the start of treatment and death (i.e., overall survival).