Health News Review

Journalist-turned-PR man Brian Reid wrote an important guest post on the Embargo Watch blog this week. It’s about the release of information from the huge American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting – about to dominate the news cycle from June 1-5 from McCormick Place in Chicago.

Photo by © ASCO/Todd Buchanan

It provides an insider’s look at the sausage-making factory where news is made from scientific/medical conferences.

I think this is a very important topic – as did those who left comments on the blog.

There’s a lot the public doesn’t know about how stories in their daily paper, evening newscast or online surfing move from:

  • abstracts submitted to scientific conference;
  • decisions made (how? by whom?) about which abstracts are accepted for short talks to be given at the conference;
  • how little actual peer review may take place prior to abstracts being accepted or presented;
  • how conference hosts decide which abstracts are to be highlighted in news releases;
  • how journalists try to sort through hundreds of news releases and thousands of abstracts to make decisions about what’s important;
  • how financial markets are affected by all of this…and when.
  • and then, finally, how the sausage is delivered to consumers/patients/health care decision-makers.

Kudos to Reid and Embargo Watch for opening the conversation this time around.  Let’s keep it going.




Greg Pawelski posted on May 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Luke Timmerman, over at Xconomy, nails it with his ASCO Preview: Eight Cancer Drugs to Watch at the Big Show. Organizers have spent years carefully orchestrating this “show” to make sure it’s the place for all kinds of “market-moving,” medical practice-changing, and “front-page leading news” about cancer.

Yeah! The excessive hype in the multi-billion dollar cancer business, where a few extra months of survival counts as a breakthrough, and makes tons of money. That explains the spectacle that is ASCO!

The FDA has never approved a drug for cancer that was not patented or marketed or produced by a major pharmaceutical company. Today, the trend is towards more expensive cancer therapies with some costing up to $100,000 per patient per year.

Millions of cancer patients suffer because profitability, not efficacy and safety, is ultimately determining what cancer therapies are available to patients.

The American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) meeting is the premier cancer research convention for basic and translational research. The AACR was the original cancer research organization that pre-dated its sister organization – ASCO.

The focus of the AACR meetings is basic research and the presentations are often geared toward PhD level scientific discovery. The meetings are the most informative for it provides insights into therapy options that may not arrive in the clinical arena for many years.

AACR presentations continue to diverge from those at the ASCO meetings. Some of the observers at this year’s meeting were not sure they heard the word “chemotherapy” a single time. That is, all of the alphabet soup combinations that make up the sessions at ASCO are nowhere to be found at the AACR meetings.