Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 104–110 | Cite as

Efficacy of psychosocial interventions in cancer care: Evidence is weaker than it first looks

  • James C. CoyneEmail author
  • Stephen J. Lepore
  • Steven C. Palmer


With increasing sophistication, successive reviews find weaker evidence for the efficacy of psychosocial interventions to reduce distress among cancer patients. However, these appraisals may still be overly positive because of reviewers’ uncritical acceptance of flaws in the design, analysis, and reporting of the results of such trials. Using randomized trials from high-impact journals, we show confirmatory bias, selective reporting of the most favorable of multiple outcome measures, suppressing of null results in subsequent citations of trials, and dropping of data for patients least likely to benefit from intervention. The conclusion that typical cancer patients do not benefit from interventions to reduce distress is strengthened when these endemic problems with the literature are taken into account. Required registering of the details of clinical trials and adherence to CONSORT reduces but does not eliminate bias in the literature.


Metastatic Breast Cancer Psychosocial Intervention Behavioral Medicine Confirmatory Bias Brief Symptom Inventory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • James C. Coyne
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephen J. Lepore
    • 2
  • Steven C. Palmer
    • 3
  1. 1.Abramson Cancer Center of the University of PennsylvaniaUSA
  2. 2.Temple UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Abramson Cancer Center of the University of PennsylvaniaUSA

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