Electronic searching versus handsearching of conference abstracts

Leclercq E1, C-M-Kremer L1, C-van-Dalen E1
1Cochrane Childhood Cancer Group, Department of Pediatric Oncology Emma Children s Hospital (EKZ) / Academic Medical Center (AMC), Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Introduction: Handsearching of conference abstracts is time consuming, but necessary for both identifying randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) not available in medical databases like PubMed/Medline and Embase, and for establishing and updating the Trials Registers of Cochrane Review Groups. Nowadays conference abstracts are often not only available in print, but also as a pdf file, which makes it possible to perform an electronic search of these abstracts. The aim of this study was to compare the results of an electronic search of conference abstracts with the results of handsearching. Materials and Methods: The 2008 conference abstracts of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) meeting were searched electronically using the following keywords: evidence, intervention, protocol, clinical trial, random, trial, controlled, RCT, CCT, phase, treatment arm, assign and stratif. Searches were performed for each keywords separately. The results of the electronic search were compared with the results obtained by handsearching the printed version of the abstract book (i.e. reading all included titles and abstracts). Results: Fourty relevant abstracts were identified by electronic searching. No abstract was detected using the keyword CCT. Handsearching of the printed version of the 2008 SIOP conference abstracts identified no additional abstracts. Conclusion: Electronically searching SIOP conference abstracts can be used to identify abstracts of trials in pediatric oncology. Many keywords have to be used to identify all RCTs and CCTs, but less abstracts have to be evaluated by searching the electronic version. However, these results need to be confirmed in a larger study including more conference abstracts.