New Consulting Editor for BMC Cancer

BMC Cancer is delighted to announce the appointment of Roberto Passera, University of Torino, Italy and Editorial Advisor for the BMC Series, as the new Consulting Editor to lead the statistical advisory board of the journal. Below, Dr Passera talks about his personal journey in biostatistics, its interplay with the field of cancer research and his outlook for the future.

My personal journey to biostatistics has been quite unorthodox and convoluted; funnily, many colleagues around the world share my non-linear experience. After I received my degree in pharmacology, I spent some years in different post graduate courses, while working for a small pharmaceutical company.

The story suddenly changed when I fell in love with clinical pharmacology and pharmacokinetics (PK). After a training course at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, I got a Ph.D. dedicated to PK trials in oncology and then a post-doctoral position at University of Southern California, PK Lab in Los Angeles.

I very quickly realised that it would be impossible to manage complex PK studies without a good training in statistics; PK was more and more becoming a critical add-on to many oncology studies.

After I qualified as a clinical epidemiologist/biostatistician, I found that the leap from PK models to biostatistics for oncology clinical trials was almost immediate. I could directly take part in the development of new chemotherapeutics regimens, even without the dependence on the facilities of a classical drug monitoring lab.

The opportunity to share my ideas, interact with the study’s physicians and to support their inferences with my biostatistics models (or sometimes denying them too!) has been very rewarding.

Ever since, I have been closely collaborating with oncologists, planning, performing and reporting more than a hundred human trials: hospital life has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life, not to mention its didactics value. The opportunity to share my ideas, interact with the study’s physicians and to support their inferences with my biostatistics models (or sometimes denying them too!) has been very rewarding.

In the past few years, I have been focusing on my editorial responsibilities, particularly with the BMC-series journals. I have been given the opportunity to serve as Associate Editor in three different BMC-series journals, BMC Cancer, BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology, and BMC Research Notes. I also serve as an Editorial Advisor for the BMC series. My collaboration with the BMC series has been highly rewarding, as I have been driven by two main motivations; my curiosity to continuously learn new and emerging topics from our international authorship and the opportunity to stay updated on established ones: both of them have been satisfied. Naturally, this has translated into a notable improvement in my research career.

I have always tried to be a very humble and open minded assessor, but the chances to be critical have not been lacking: new manuscripts in the field of cancer research show a widespread level of quality with regards to biostatistics. Why does this happen? There could be several different reasons. So here is some advice for potential authors on getting biostatistics right:

  • Ask for the support of statistical advisers not only before but even during the peer-review process, since it’s not always solicited by default from the single editor
  • Follow the minimum acceptable criteria for basic statistical reporting in biomedical journals, like the SAMPL guidelines
  • Follow the minimum acceptable criteria for the standardization of clinical protocol items, like the SPIRIT guidelines
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses might not meet the classical standards; in that case, you should properly consider the PRISMA guidelines
  • A formal sample size estimation is not always present in the manuscripts. Don’t forget that this information is critical for your reviewers and readers

Clearly, there is a myriad of considerations and arguments that deserve to be covered. I look forward to working with the esteemed editorial and statistical advisory boards of BMC Cancer and I warmly encourage the respectable reader to share their ideas or insights on the intersection of biostatistics with the field of cancer research.

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