The story: A company, Exact Sciences, announces (but doesn’t publish) results of a study of its experimental Colo-guard colon cancer screening test that looks for changes in DNA in stool samples.
The New York Times splashes: “Noninvasive Cancer Test Is Effective, Study Finds.”
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News headlined, “Noninvasive Colorectal Cancer Test Proves True.“ (Guess that depends on how you define “true.”)
That is almost the polar opposite of what MedPage Today reported in its story headline, “DNA-Based Colon Cancer Screen Gets Mixed Review.”
And Reuters reported, “Exact Sciences stock drops as cancer test disappoints.”
All of these stories were based largely on a company announcement – a news release – plus whatever journalists could milk out of the company.
Most of the optimism came from the company reps. The CEO told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“I think it’s a hiccup. The overall results are a huge win over the battle against colon cancer. We achieved basically the same level of cancer detection as the colonoscopy, and the same level of pre-cancer detection as the Pap smear.”
Most of the pessimism was attributed to Wall Street analysts, or to an occasional independent physician expert.
Lesson for readers: don’t over-react to any story based primarily on a company’s announcement.
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