Late biostatistician's plan for clinical trial bears fruit

Volume 7, Issue 2, 2018


Results from the IDEA colon cancer study show that patients may be able to reduce chemotherapy.

Photograph of the late Daniel J. Sargent, Ph.D.

The late Daniel J. Sargent, Ph.D.

A unique global clinical trial designed by the late Daniel J. Sargent, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic biostatistician, is changing how physicians treat patients with colon cancer.

Results from studies pooled in the International Duration Evaluation of Adjuvant Chemotherapy collaboration, also known as IDEA, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 29, 2018. The IDEA results showed that some patients with stage III colon cancer can cut in half the number of chemotherapy treatments they receive after surgery, significantly reducing the cost, treatment time and long-term toxic effects of chemotherapy.

"Running six randomized clinical trials at the same time across the globe was Dan's brainchild," said Qian Shi, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic statistician in Rochester, Minnesota, who took over work on the study after Dr. Sargent's sudden death in 2016.

Mayo Clinic oncologists say the IDEA colon cancer results provide a framework for discussions between patients and providers about the trade-off between the side effects and the efficacy of adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant therapy is a standard treatment that uses chemotherapy after surgery to increase the cure rate in patients with colon cancer who have undergone surgery and had cancer spread to lymph nodes.

"Our cancer center suffered a great loss when our friend and colleague passed away," said Robert B. Diasio, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. "One way to honor Dan's legacy is to support his incredible research — which continues today — by giving to his memorial research fund."