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Value of disease biomarkers may be exaggerated

The Los Angeles Times is reporting today on a Stanford study showing that the association between biomarkers and disease is often overstated:

After reviewing 35 widely cited research reports linking a substance to a disease, the study's authors found that about 85% of the time, the strength of those links didn't hold up when larger, follow-up studies were done.

In fact, in some cases, the connection between the biomarker and disease risk disappeared altogether, they reported in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

"We hear every day that there's a new marker for heart disease, cancer and so forth," said study coauthor John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and chief of the Prevention Research Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "That needs to be seen with a more tempered perspective."

More on the study can be found in our release. As my colleague writes, a concern with the exaggerated value of biomarkers is that "clinicians may be making decisions for their patients based on inaccurate conclusions."

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