This is a familiar story now being re-told. Excitement over an experimental drug is conveyed with unnecessarily sensational language that doesn’t help anyone. That’s what happened in recent days with some – not all – news about the experimental drug T-DM1 coming out of the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. It would be better if journalists stuck to the evidence, explained what “progression-free survival” means, and helped readers hone their critical thinking.
Another old pattern revisited: When the New York Times reports something, the TV networks are soon to follow.
So when the Times reported, “A new class of cancer drugs may be loss toxic,” featuring a single patient’s experience with T-DM1 – NBC followed closely and quite similarly – featuring the exact same patient in the exact same setting. One woman out of 1,000 in the trial. Who chose her? The drug company PR people?
|New York Times T-DM1 story|
|NBC T-DM1 story|
It was refreshing to see Liz Szabo’s USA Today piece on the same drug. Excerpts:
Stay tuned. The ASCO conference continues this week.
Addendum later on June 4:
The Retraction Watch blog notes that the lead author of the T-DM1 study announced at ASCO co-authored two corrected papers with Anil Potti, the “now-former Duke oncologist who has retracted or corrected 17 papers after resigning in the midst of an investigation into his work.”
Addendum on June 6:
See “T-DM1: ASCO Showcases a Victory for Science, But Is It a Victory for Women?” by Laura Nikolaides, director of research and quality care programs for the National Breast Cancer Coalition.